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

Also on Melee Academy, Ranged Edition:

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

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

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

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

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


Disadvantages [-35]; Quirks [-5]

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

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

More on that later. 

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

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

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

Basic Principles of Mail-order Pain

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

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

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

Bring the Hurt

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s Not Worth It?


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

What IS Worth it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tactics


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

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

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

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

Parting Shot


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This failed to impress Cadmus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brrr. That’s going to be cold.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, let’s start there . . .

Energetics

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

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

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

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

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

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

Right. That guy.

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

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

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

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

GURPSifying the Calculations


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

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

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

Damage = Constant * ST * Skill Multiplier * Staff Multiplier

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

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

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

Redux


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

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

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

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

GURPS Martial Arts has a neat little (highly optional) box on minute differences between melee weapons when it comes to various combat activities, such as Stop Hits, Feints, and Fast-Draw contests.

There was a question that showed up from Landwalker over on the SJG Forums about combining ‘A Matter of Inches’ (Martial Arts, p. 110) with my article on Setup Attacks from Pyramid #3/52 called Delayed Gratification.

The Setup Attack replaces the Feint mechanism with a variant on an actual attack, that requires an actual defense.

Let’s see what reviewing the box shows us, then.

Swing vs. Thrust

Swung weapons are slower and thus harder to successfully alter or recover from. This could be expressed as one or more of the following.

  1. The setup is harder to launch effectively. Take a larger penalty (perhaps an extra -1) to your hit roll
  2. The setup is easier to defend against. Your foe gets a bonus to defend against it (again, +1, but that makes it equivalent to -2 on the attack, which might be too much).
  3. The follow-on attack is harder. When you follow a Setup with a swing, you get -1 to hit.
  4. The follow-on defense is easier. +1 to defend vs. the follow-up attack, but this has the same issues as #2.
I think, overall, I like #3. The setup is whatever it is, but it’s harder to reposition quickly to get the next blow in. So if you choose to follow up a Setup with a swung attack, you are at -1 to hit.
 

Weapon Weight (relative to your ST)

Perfect illustration from Rimfrost

This applies to pretty much everything that would use a Quick Contest, but with Setup Attacks, the QCs become real attacks. So:

  1. Either on Setups (and defending from them; they’re not secret) you apply this same penalty or bonus directly to both user’s skill (and in this case, I’d round in favor of the defender), or
  2. Apply half the difference in penalties to the Setup Attack penalty if it’s successful. Round as you choose – if you want weapon weight to matter less, round down. If you want these differences to have more impact, round up
This one makes me more nervous, since especially with #1, this is getting perilously close to having a penalty to skill based on weapon weight for all attacks and defenses. Now, I’m not averse to that! It makes sense in a lot of ways. But you better be prepared for the consequences, as it plays directly with character conception. If “I want to use a big sword” is suddenly nerfed because you only bought enough to barely get over the MinST and now you effectively don’t have the skill to wield it like you want, that’s going to piss people off.

Weapon Weight (absolute)

This speaks to Beats and parries vs. heavy weapons. The second part can apply as-is to Setups, since a Setup is an attack. For Beats . . . let me get back to that one.

Weapon Length

I don’t think this should matter in Setups. Having a longer weapon does not allow you to draw a foe out of position better, though it might be harder to reposition after said setup due to lever arm. So maybe ignore differences within weapon reach categories, but perhaps the longer weapon takes a -1 to skill on the attack or defense for each extra yard of length or something. This might only apply to swung attacks as well; spears are notoriously fast, despite being long.

Beat It

The question of Beats on Setups is natural and interesting. It should fall out fairly easily in the execution of the attack. Instead of launching a Setup as-is, perhaps you throw a (Deceptive) Attack at the weapon itself.

So, you attack the weapon, targeting it at the usual penalties (tiny weapons are harder, longer ones easier). If you do this as a Deceptive Attack, and the penalty lowers the foe’s Parry as usual.

The defender has three choices:

Dodge!

He may attempt to pull himself completely out of reach. This is a straight-up dodge roll, including DB from shields, etc. as normal. If he succeeds, the attack misses completely. If he fails, the attack hits the weapon squarely. Treat this as a failed parry (below).

Disengage!

He may also flick his weapon out of the way. This is resolved as a “Dodge-based parry.”

  • Take the relative skill level of your weapon, plus any bonuses that might apply from “A matter of inches” above. Divide this by two, rounding away from zero.
  • Retreat only provides +1 instead of +3, like a Parry
  • DB from shields, armor, or anything but the weapon does not apply (a sword enchanted somehow to provide +1 DB or +1 to Parry would still count).
  • Since Dodge already includes Combat Reflexes, there’s no need to count it twice!
  • Take any adds to damage based on the weapon

Example: A ST 14 duellist with Rapier at DX+5 and Dodge-10 and a +1 due to relative ST with his weapon is being attacked by a foe trying to Beat his weapon aside. He elects to try and flick his weapon out of the way. His Relative Skill Level is adjusted up to DX+6 based on the adjustment from “A Matter of Inches,” and that is halved to +3. This boosts his “Dodge-based Parry” that is the Disengage from 10 to 13. However, his Rapier does thr+1 damage, which gives a -1 penalty, for a net of Disengage 12. If he retreats, he gains +1, giving Disengage-13.

If the disengage fails, your foe strikes the weapon squarely, as with a failed true parry. If it succeeds, the Beat is avoided.

Force on Force: True Parries

Finally, he may meet force with force by utilizing his true Parry (again, DB from shields does not count).

Successful Attacks

If the hit roll is successful, roll damage for the attack as usual. This damage will be applied to the weapon regardless of whether the defender’s parry is successful or not! That’s the risk the defender takes meeting the blow force-on-force (but see Sliding the Blow, below).

Successful Parries

If the parry is successful, the defender rolls swing-based damage, adding the largest bonus the weapon can have in any attack mode (a Halberd, p. B272, has three modes, and thus rolls sw+5, the highest mode). Bonuses from Weapon Master or other adds definitely count! A rapier, which usually only has a thr+1 mode, would roll sw+1 for absorbing damage in this case.

Subtract this roll from the attacker’s roll. Any remaining damage applies a penalty to the foe’s Parry until the end of his next turn.

Example: Our ST 14 duelist attempts to meet a naginata swing from a ST 17 foe force-on-force. The incoming blow hits the weapon, and rolls 3d+1 for 13 points of damage. The duelist succeeds in his parry, and lowers the penalty by rolling swing-based damage himself: 2d+1, and lowers it by 9! Still, the remaining damage imparts -4 to the duelist’s Parry until the end of his next turn. Additionally, the blow hits the sword, whose DR 6 lowers the incoming damage to “only” 7 points. A rapier only has 11 HP, so the sword is reduced to 4 HP, which is not lower than 1/3 it’s HP . . . but it’s getting close. One more such “success” and the rapier will be useless.

Failed Parries

If the foe fails his parry, the attacker strikes his weapon squarely. Roll damage and apply it to the weapon normally.

Also, the blow knocks the weapon out of alignment. The defender takes a -1 to Parry for every point of damage delivered until the end of his next turn. This penalty is lowered by 1 for every 2 points of ST by which the defender’s ST exceeds the MinST of his weapon (the ST Margin). If the penalty to Parry exceeds the user’s Skill/2, it is Unready. If the defender critically failed his Parry, he is disarmed.

Example: Our ST 14 duelist tries again to meet another swing from the naginata. The incoming blow hits the weapon, and rolls 3d+1 for 12 points of damage. This time, the duelist fails his parry roll, and is thus at -12 to Parry. Unless our duelist has Rapier-24 or higher, his weapon is rendered Unready. Once again, the blow hits the sword, suffering 6 points of damage, lowering the HP of his poor blade from 4 HP down to -2 HP. The sword is now disabled, and a quick check on p. B485 shows that a 1d roll is called for: a roll of 2 shows that the blade breaks at the halfway mark and is now Reach 1, instead of 1,2 . . . and now only does crushing damage. Rapiers do not parry polearms well.

Sliding the Blow

Very skilled wielders can partially mitigate the damage done by accepting a penalty to their Parry. For each -1 to Parry, reduce the damage inflicted by a successful blow by 1 point.

This will only get you so far.

Parting Shot

This suggested tweak to the rules takes Delayed Gratification, A Matter of Inches, and the various rules for Beat, Knocking a Weapon Away, and weapon breakage and slams them all together until fusion occurs.

Guess we’ll see if we have produced more energy than we used! Evaluating my own work, I think the weakest link is the disengage rule, where I wanted to have skill matter on a Dodge-type roll. That one could use some testing, and maybe tweaking.

 

I wrote about a logjam of GURPS that was pending, right? And Pyramid being awesome GURPSiness?

Well, check out the GURPS News. Excerpts from +Sean Punch‘s update (the text in green are his words, copied from the GURPS News) , with a focus on release dates:

With other GURPS material biding its time, it seems appropriate to remind everyone that each monthly issue of Pyramid is a bona fide GURPS supplement. Certainly, it’s sold as a ‘zine, and you can even subscribe. That doesn’t change the fact that it’s 100% official GURPS support, and enjoys the same love and attention as the rest of the game.
Which isn’t to say that we aren’t hard at work on more publications with “GURPS” on the front. Really, we haven’t been slacking off! Here are just some of the projects in the queue. As usual, this is a list of wild-eyed guesses, its order and ETAs subject to change if a butterfly flaps its wings on the Plateau of Leng:

  • Pyramid will continue, of course. Steven Marsh has July’s issue in editing, August’s well in hand, and the three after that just about filled.
  • My most recent major project – Zombies – is enjoying excellent art progress. We might even see the PDF released on e23 before end of summer 2013, though the printed version is further out.
  • Phil Masters and I have finished our review of the preliminary PDFs of his Discworld Roleplaying Game. Much of the art is in already, and the company has elevated this item to a Priority, which may well mean seeing it in 2013.
  • David T. Moore’s Banestorm: Martial Arts is very close to ready . . . in fact, the main thing left to do is decide whether we want to use that title or one that isn’t the titles of two other books mooshed together.
  • Douglas Cole’s Martial Arts: Technical Grappling is next in line for art. Advanced rules for twisting your foes into pretzels could appear before end of summer 2013.
  • Michele Armellini’s Locations: St. George’s Cathedral is getting art, too, so the Locations series might just see a growth spurt before winter 2013.
  • Bill Stoddard’s Thaumatology: Chinese Elemental Powers – which supports both Thaumatology and Powers – also seems plausible for autumn or winter 2013.
  • David Chart’s Transhuman Space: Wings of the Rising Sun is still on target for 2013, if the art situation holds steady.
  • Hans-Christian Vortisch’s High-Tech: Adventure Guns should be out in time to let you restock your armory before 2014.
  • Dan Howard’s Loadouts: Low-Tech Armor also has art deadlines set, but currently looks more like an early 2014 proposition.
  • Ken Hite’s Horror: The Madness Dossier is in editing, so it’s a little further out than all of the above.

Needless to say, with my book finally pending, and possibly by the “end of the Summer 2013,” this is most excellent news!

There’s an interesting discussion going on over at the SJG Forums about parrying unarmed attacks with weapons.

It’s interesting for a bunch of reasons. GURPS Martial Arts has a bit to say on this subject, mostly in the text box appropriately titled Harsh Realism for Unarmed Fighters. GURPS Basic Set throws down on p. B376 and p. B379 on this subject as well, giving parrying weapons a -3 vs. anything but a thrust, and of course, if you parry an unarmed blow with a weapon and make a skill roll at -4, you do damage “as normal.”

Of course, that “as normal” is interesting. What’s normal?

It could be all sorts of things, but the real question seems to be “thrust, swing, or some fraction thereof?”

Go read the thread to see the diverse opinions.

Now I’ll add my own. I think an interesting way to go would be to take the damage of the blow being attempted (based on the attacker’s ST), and apply that damage based on the wounding modifier of the weapon being struck.

So if you’re throwing some sort of uber-kick that does 2d-1 cr base damage (no modifiers for boots, fist loads, etc) and you’re parried by a sword, you should probably take 2d-1 cut to your foot or shin (but how to decide?). If you’re parrying a punch, you probably are dealing with his thrust damage.

Most parries that aren’t purposefully Aggressive Parries don’t move much, and so I’m not sure the defender’s ST should figure in that much.

Anyway, +Peter V. Dell’Orto seems to use swing. I’ve also seen thrust and thrust/2 in the past!

Lots of options for interpretation on this one, it seems. What do you use?

Update: Kromm Speaks!

The back-from-vacation +Sean Punch weighed in with the intent of the rules at the tail end of the thread linked above. The compilation of several clarifying posts:

The intent of the rule is to use the damage of the attack being parried. The weapon might be some Swiss Army knife with 100 attack forms, but the attacker has to pick one before rolling to hit. Use the damage of that attack form.

Those who dislike the size of the damage – and I agree it’s excessive – might want to reduce Parrying Unarmed Attacks (p. B376) to a special case of Hurting Yourself (p. B379). First, don’t limit self-inflicted damage to target DR. Second, change damage type to that of the edge of whatever you’re parrying (cutting for anything with a swing cutting attack, crushing for just about everything else, and possibly burning or corrosion for energy swords), and remember that minimum damage is 1 point if the type is anything but crushing. Finally, apply any armor divisor on the weapon.

This is strictly a replacement for Parrying Unarmed Attacks (p. B376). Parrying Unarmed (p. B376) wouldn’t change, because that’s about mistiming a parry with your body and placing a body part directly in the path of a full-powered attack.

He notes in response to a question: “Is it the damage of the attack being parried or the damage of an attack chosen by the defender with the parrying weapon?”

Sorry, I mushed together parrying an attack and being parried. However, I’d let the defender choose. Sure, most parries are edge-on, but one can stab a foe in the wrist to check his unarmed attack.

When challenged that this seemed an awful lot like an Aggressive Parry

Note that all armed parries vs. unarmed attacks are “aggressive” by default. That’s why they do damage. Agressive Parry is only a distinct technique for unarmed fighters, in the rules as written.

This is not new. +Peter V. Dell’Orto makes this exact point in a post from over six months ago.

I led the post from yesterday with a quote from the movie Independence Day.

That naturally got me thinking about the movie, which I really think is one of the better popcorn movies out there. It’s a classic example of the explosions and victory school of film-making.

There are of course so many plot holes and implausibilities in this movie that one might just toss it in the bin along with Snakes on a Plane as essentially unwatchable (My wife and I were really looking forward to this one, for all the reasons you’d expect. Well, one reason: Sam Jackson saying “I want these MFing snakes off my MFing plane.” We tried . . . we did . . . to watch it, but had to turn it off when the snake bit the stacked woman in the restroom on the nipple).

Shall I toss off a few?

  • Will Smith had it right, in a way. Why come 90 billion light-years to start a fight. Unless their hyperdrive systems are so effortless in terms of energy input so as to make that journey trivially, there’s no reason to come and conquer Earth
  • Systematic city-by-city destruction using the wall-of-flame cannon, rather than, say, biological warfare or something. 
  • The power of the portable Apple computer. 

I’m sure there are tons more, and we can amuse ourselves in the comments endlessly.

Nonetheless, I loved the movie, and place it in the same category as, say “Broken Arrow” for “guilty pleasure movies,” that aren’t really terribly good but are a hell of a lot of fun

But, how about for gaming?

Just kinda winging it, we have an intro section where we get introduced to some of the characters, and that is probably not exactly perfect for gaming. I tried “the PCs meet each other bit by bit” once, and it was a nightmare. I had to resort to a total railroad “you guys all need to be in the same area, so go there” heavy hand of the GM moment. Not the best.

Then, of course, there’s the scene where the aliens are attacking, which is a nice “you survived the apocalypse” moment that provides both the actual apocalypse as well as some convenient opportunities to deprive the party of some gear, and some thrilling heroics.

Then there’s the finding of Area 51 and all of the old alien technology, which provides the inspiration for the big climax. We also have the inevitable “conventional methods will not impact the aliens” moments where proxies are killed and exposed to nuclear explosions to prove just how badass the PCs will have to be to pull this off.

Then there’s the planning montage, followed by the actual plan, What Could Possibly Go Wrong?, and the final victory.

Assumptions and Genre

Welcome to Earth, motherf**ker

The tech assumptions are pretty straight-forward. The “good guys’ have access to military level hardware where needed (not that it does any good), decent command and control supplemented with Morse code. The bad guys have access to their exosuits, which seem to only provide environmental protection, since Will Smith was able to KO an alien by frackin’ punching him in the face. 

They have contragravity, FTL travel, and blasters. Apparently, however, they are regressed to TL7 or so in computer technology, which the PCs can take advantage of.

The genre is pretty clearly a cross between Action and Monster Hunters (or maybe just Monster Hunters: Bug Hunt). The PCs are all pretty damn capable and action-hero worthy. Plus, of course, one of them is the President of the United States. Who flies a jet into action. Hell, I’d vote for that guy.

What doesn’t work about this


I think that on several levels, this movie would fail as a direct translation to an RPG campaign. There aren’t really enough PCs with active roles (that’s typical of this type of movie; you really only get two or three characters in focus, usually a pair of dudes and a love interest or two as regrettable window dressing).

Also, too much of the movie is exposition and doesn’t really involve the PCs as the go-to party, and the situations are such that at least the players I’ve had would get themselves utterly killed. That first raid on the big mother ship that Will Smith and Harry Connick Jr. partake in? Oh, yeah. TPK city (and when you think of it, this particular raid’s end was basically “Oh, one player bought Luck, the other Didn’t Get the Memo and gets to write up a new PC).

What works?


The general outline of the “plot” isn’t awful. The threat is detected, and the apocalypse can either happen on-screen as part of the first scene, or actually off-screen, and the PCs can be together from the get-go, but in a “too late to die stupidly” way.

The plotline can be stretched into a reasonable campaign, by avoiding the Deux ex Machina of the Area 51 already having most of the answers and a conveniently captured starfighter. The PCs can capture aliens, grab tech, set ambushes like some sort of mashup from Red Dawn meets Aliens.

The big climax might be different, but blowing up the bad guys just as their unleashing their superlaser does have a certain cache to it, one has to admit.

Parting Shot


I think the upshot of this is that I want to write Monster Hunters: Alien Invasion.

Seriously, other than the magic part, this is nearly tailor-made for this sort of high-action, popcorn cinema type of campaign. Certainly, you could play it with a Sidekicks level of PC, but that just means you buy that book, which is already conveniently provided for you. All the groundwork is done for you, and Aliens and Ultra-Tech substitute quite nicely for demons and magic in the role of plot obstacle.

Heck, I wonder if this is just Too Simple for e23, and should be reduced to Pyramid instead. If only I had a bunch of vacation time coming up . . .

Been a decent weekend for writing. I’m finally putting three articles to bed that I’ve had in the hopper for a very, very long time.

They’re all weaponry related, hand weaponry at that. One is related to weapon breakage, another on fixing and making weapons, and the last is on tweaking around with armor divisors and wound modifiers on blades. They were one big article at first, but I realized that my tendency to write far-too-complete/complex treatises on stuff had run away with me. Thus: split ’em into discrete pieces, remove some of the links that made it complicated, and thus hopefully produce something that is more usable to more people.

We shall see.

I also really need to get back into my Pathfinder overview. I dumped it in the middle of Chapter 8 (Combat), and I would like to finish that one day.

I’ll be on vacation the last week in July and the first week in August, which means I should have time to bang away at a few bits of some larger works I’d like to do. One on Age of Sail ships and battles, one on healing and medicine, and maybe starting the designer’s notes bits of Technical Grappling (and for those keeping score, that’s me getting ahead of things, not some warning that I’ve got any idea when it’s coming out).

I might also try and restart my internal notes in my Book of Pretentiousness. I’ve let that slide, and while I’ve still got some topics to mine in there, the well’s running a bit dry.

Thursday is GURPS-Day, and because of a quick trip back and forth to California from Monday through Wednesday, I’m a bit behind. Life gets that way.

Over on the forums, the poster known as mehrkat made the following remark. It struck a nerve with me in a good way, so I repeat it:

I admit I don’t take “canon” very seriously. Canon is my world specific. I toss stuff out at random at my whim which is definitely encouraged by GURPS. But I would absolutely consider something in Pyramid to be assigning it “official” status.

Well, YES. THIS.

 Writing for GURPS is kinda hard. The system itself isn’t that difficult – there are really only a few core mechanics. But depending on your interest, you’d best be at least passing familiar with what has been done on the subject you’re interested in. Even if you’re trying to cover new ground, it’s often a good idea to know what toes you’re stomping on.

Looking at my own works, for example:

Ten . . HUT!: Well, this provides finer gradations in Military Rank. Most useful if you’re actually building a character, so while it can be applied to existing games, once the dude is written, there’s probably not much point.

The Big Guns Thing: Can be used as a drop-in for any weapon, even in 4e. It also has a bunch of (then) house rules for injury, some of which are now more-or-less canonical in 4e, some not.

Armor Revisited: Optional rules, can be done in any game, even retroactively, and dropped if you don’t like ’em. So this one’s portable.

The Deadly Spring: Sort of like the guns article, in that it can be used retroactively (it’s a design system), but it mucks with the stats of a common muscle-powered ranged weapon, and if your GM goes on a “realism” kick, might nerf your concept. Also, you might want gonzo bows for Dungeon Fantasy. So YMMV.

The Last Gasp: Yeah, this one has real potential to make character concepts play very, very differently. It makes HT really important. Even more important than usual! This one probably needs to be adopted at the start of a campaign – or at least with careful consideration.

Delayed Gratification: I wrote this article so it could be dropped into an existing game. So this one’s portable.

Technical Grappling: a rewrite and expansion of grappling rules, but it is not fully compatible with the existing rules. It has an entirely new mechanic to represent how well someone’s being grappled, and so it’s not something that can be easily meshed with (say) people writing Pyramid articles referencing grappling. You’ll need to say “well, using the existing rules, this weapon does armed grapples like [blah], but if  you’re using Technical Grappling, treat this as a Flexible, Flail, Impaling weapon for grapples, and if you hit, it also inflicts 2d+2 Control Points!”

The other reason it’s hard is that, well, it’s not fiction. It’s technical writing to a very specific style guide. There’s a WYSIWYG template with the proper SJG styles, and using them can be hard to master. The formatting used to write up (say) Advantages, Templates, martial arts styles, or whatnot are quite specific, and can be easy to get wrong. They’re quite picky about pesky things like grammar and stuff.

It’s every bit as technically precise to write for Pyramid as it is to write an e23 supplement. The nice thing about it, though, is that it can be as short or long as you’d like. Well, if +Steven Marsh accepts it. My shortest for GURPS was probably Armor Revisited at about 1,700 or so words. My longest, never to be repeated on pain of death and mockery, was The Deadly Spring, at a mind-boggling 11,000. For what it’s worth, every word in Dungeon Fantasy 12: Ninja, including the index and table of contents, pull quotes and marketing pages, is about 14,000 words. So Deadly Spring is basically as long as a full e23 release.

That’s a GURPS supplement, right there. On a subject so esoteric that I doubt it would merit a full release – but because there’s Pyramid, it doesn’t need one.

Lastly: if you do want to write for GURPS, you want to start with Pyramid. I’d probably target something on the order of 3-5 pages in the magazine, or about 2,500-4000 words. Long enough to show you can do it, not so long that it’s a huge risk to print.

But make no mistake: GURPS is Pyramid, and Pyramid is GURPS. Grar!