Recently I’ve been on a bit of a shield kick.

One-on-one with Shields: Upsetting the conventional wisdom shows a video by Roland Warzecha of Dimicator, and how he’s using a heater shield much like he uses a buckler. While he owns the fact that he’s an expert in sword-and-buckler play based on the I.33 manual, he’s pretty firm about the style and method carrying over, at least in dueling.

Viking Shield Fighting in GURPS looked a bit about the style that I’m being instructed in, and how to represent that in GURPS. I do talk a bit about using the shield, and using it to Feint and Beat (ST-based Feint), as well as mentioning modeling this as a grapple. I’m still persuaded that the give and take of grappling is the best model for this kind of thing.

Finally, I looked at the shields themselves quite a bit in Vikings, Shields, and Game Rules. That one had some mechanics, but a lot of it was covering some of the truths and myths about shields, their construction, and some overall notes on game rules.

For this post, I’m not going to claim this is exhaustive, well thought out, playtested, or conclusive.

What’s the Point of Points in Shield?

By and large, a lot (not all, but a lot) of the benefits of lugging around a medium shield accrue from the defense bonus. That gives you +2 (for medium) to all active defenses: Block, of course, and Parry and Dodge.

Block is nice, though – unless you buy Parry Missile Weapons, it’s one of the better defenses against ranged weapons. But by and large, putting 8 points into a weapon skill gets you at least +2 to hit, +1 to Parry, and +2 to anything that uses a Quick Contest of weapon, such as making feints with the weapon, and resisting all feints (the clarification/expansion is you resist feints with your best melee skill, armed or unarmed).

Now, don’t get me wrong: Buying up shield gets you these things as well: +2 to strike with the shield, +1 to Block, and (especially with the clarification from p. 100 of GURPS Martial Arts) also gives you +2 to make shield feints, and +2 to resist all feints.

Blocks are more penalized for doing repeatedly, though: -5 rather than -4 for Parry. You also have a deep incentive to buy up weapon skill: penalties to attacks are legion: deceptive attacks can soak up all sorts of high skill. Bad footing. Location penalties can get steep: chinks in armor or the eyes or eyeslits. Darkness penalties. One can probably rationalize something like up to Weapon Skill of about 36 or so if you wan to have a 50-50 chance of stabbing someone in the eye in a dark cave while giving the bad guy -5 to Parry, Block, or Dodge with a Deceptive attack.

And of course, once you have a single defense that high (Weapon Parry), it’s hard to figure out why you also want Shield of equal power. Heck, my current modern-day Paladin-to-be has Broadsword-23 with his special sword, giving him Parry-15 with just the sword, Parry-17 with a DB +2 shield, but only Shield-14, which gives Block-13 with the shield. So mostly I parry.

This is pretty much exactly the opposite to how Roland used his heater shield and how I use my viking shield, where you purposefully and actively either use the shield to keep distance and set range, or purposefully use it to deny lines, shut down attacks, and otherwise get this huge piece of mobile-but-fragile cover in the other guy’s face.

Human vs. Human isn’t always the norm

One thing to keep in mind is a comment from one of the other posts. Mike Bernstein wrote:

There’s one major point that I’ve always held onto, as it helps me maintain some of the suspension of disbelief in the fantasy genre, despite my HEMA experience. The very valid points you’ve made come from our world, where humans fight humans… not a fantasy world where your opponent might be drastically smaller, faster, tougher, larger, heavier, possessing thick leathery skin, tentacles, magical shielding, alien anatomy, precognition… so on and so forth. The openings and opportunities are different, even the psychology is different. A well-practiced feint that works on most human opponents is a gamble when you try it on something with the thought process of a bipedal lizard, or bowl of sentient jell-o that has no concept of defense.

So it might be reasonable to say that, while typical rulesets underappreciate the shield in human to human combat, getting +2 AC against something the size of an ogre with a club is a pretty good compromise when by all means something that size might just as easily shatter the bones supporting the shield. To say nothing of non-humanoids with anatomical features that could drastically impair shield defense.

I’ve come to believe that the seemingly haphazard, unrealistic use of weapons and armor in the fantasy genre is actually very realistic in a world where literally anything could be around the corner. Adventurers have to have a sort of savvy brawling, adaptable and scrappy kind of mentality, and formal training only helps so much as itäs usually completely irrelevant to your situation. There is no arms race as we know it, evolving and honing our tools and tactics directionally… just infinite influences that make it impossible to decide which direction is technologically “forward”. All those rule abstractions and anachronisms might be the only thing preserving our sanity, compared to trying to capture all of this in one enormous system.

I think this is a very good point, and while I’ll continue to try and deal with the base case of two humans dueling, exploring what happens when a dwarf, ogre, or giant steps into the combat arena, or you get dogpiled by a pack of kobolds, is likely the more important case to worry about in most fantasy games.

Attack to Defend

If you want folks to think “shield shield shield” instead of “sword sword sword,” you need to make using the shield proactive, fun, and valuable.

So what if you could perhaps make a skill roll vs your shield skill, and have that define how much defensive benefit you got? And yes, it would probably count as an attack. But since (a) the shield is meant to be used in the “off hand,” and (b) is frequently but not uniquely targeted at one guy . . . this seems like a perfect opportunity to lessen the burden by allowing this to be part of a Dual-Weapon Attack. After all, a shield is a one-handed melee weapon.

Setup Attacks

So, one way to just make this happen is to use a shield to make a setup attack, from Pyr 3/52, Delayed Gratification. You make the setup attack with your shield, which imposes a penalty to your foe’s defenses. You then follow that up and on your next attack with your weapon you gain the stackable benefit from the setup attack on your next weapon attack. There’s an issue with that, of course, but that’s somewhat resolvable.

Effects of Aggressive Shield Use

So you make a skill roll, and that should enable one or more of the following

  • You’re skillfully using your weapon to cover lines of attack. This makes you harder to hit, assessing a flat-out penalty to the foe’s attack roll
  • You’re actively warding lines and anticipating actions of your foe, perhaps forcing him into preferred lines of attack where you can more easily block. This gives you a bonus to your defense when you use your shield to counter it.
  • You use your shield to open up the foe’s defenses. This is basically akin to the setup attack above, depending on the mechanism used to mark success.
  • You use your shield to hide or cover your own lines of attack or open up the foe. This would provide a bonus to your own hit roll.

So four possibilities. All have utility and all would be fun. Making them the results of an attack-like action gives you a reason to do it.

Making Skill Matter

High skill should give more benefit than less skill, so the result should scale somehow.

How does GURPS usually handle this:

  1. Well, we could use margin of success. Just make a roll and however much you succeed by . . . means something.
  2. We could also use the “risk first, roll second” method that is based on Deceptive Attack. Take a penalty to skill, with each -2 giving either +/-1 to a defense (yours/his), or +/-2 to an attack (again, yours/his). So if you have Shield-18, you might take -4 to skill, and have a 90% chance of making that roll, which gives you, based on the options above, +2 to your defense, -2 to his defenses, +4 to your attack, or -4 to his.
  3. Finally, one could use a “damage roll” mechanic, where a successful skill check allows you to make a “damage roll” (maybe look up skill on the thrust column of the table on p. B16?) that would translate into defense and hit rolls. Probably each point of damage would be one control point, +/-1 to defense, or +/-2 to an attack roll.

Reason to Circle

Rather than decide ahead of time, perhaps this successful “Shield Employment Attack” can be reflected by points, that can be used however you’d like at any moment. So I have Shield-16, and with my medium shield I risk a roll vs 10 (-6 to my skill), and if I’m successful, I have 3 points to spend. The +2 to all defenses for having a big-ass plank in the way is inviolate.

So I’ve got my points. Note this doesn’t depend on the other guy, because you can use these points in opposition to each other. I decide to throw an attack and spend 2 of my points to give myself +4 to hit. Oops, my foe is an expert and he had 5 points to spend. He cancels out my 2 points, spends two more to give me -2 to hit and +1 to his own defense; he holds one in reserve.

The Points are Obvious

One possibility here is that how many points you have is obvious. An expert shieldmaiden with Shield-20 might routinely be wandering around with 3 points (rolling vs 14), and that level of defense is obvious to opponents. She’s well protected, and you know that there’s a certain threat to be dealt with here.

Extra Benefits to Evaluate

Or you can not have the points obvious, and is all an opponent knows is the shield is out there. But if they Evaluate, maybe it’s a Contest of Weapon skill, and if you win, you can know how many points of defensive potential your opponent has. Maybe margin of success caps how many points you’re told. So win by 10, and if your opponent is wandering around with 10 or fewer defensive points, you know it. Win by 2, and is all you can see from your evaluation is either she has 0, 1, 2 or “2 or more” defensive points.

Build up defense or Replace

If you can make shield attacks and gather points turn after turn after turn, that could get silly. No, it WILL get silly – even if you can spend points directly to cancel things out, so it’s really only the relative benefits that matter, if in the middle of combat when one guy has 34 points in reserve, the other has 29, and the GM is ready to tear his hair out to make something happen, a third party steps in . . . do the two shield wielders have a potentially 30-point advantage over the new guy? That’s just silly.

So the best bet is that repeated rolls like this can replace your current total, but not add to it. Either that or there’s a solid cap on how many points you can accumulate. Maybe equal to your Block skill or something.

Weapon Wards

This might even be able to be applied to weapons as well. This should be decisively disadvantageous relative to shields, but I can see doing the same sort of thing, with most weapons effectively being DB +0, but a few of them might get DB +1 or DB +2 (a weapon held in defensive grip, or a staff), while others such as knives (-1 to parry) basically come with an effective -2 to skill to get a “point” of defense.

I’m not entirely sure about this, though. It will cost you an attack, so to both ward and strike counts as a rapid strike or something. And obviously you can’t All-Out Attack to ward and attack and then spend points from that to bolster your own defenses or make yourself harder to hit (both defensive uses), but bonuses to hit or openings in their defenses seem legit.

Beat it Down

The analogy of these points to damage is deliberate. Control Points from Technical Grappling should be just as good as these defensive points, allowing huge monsters to grapple the shield and rip the shield away or otherwise just force it out of action. Even if you don’t use TG, you can just attack the shield directly, and not allow defensive points to be spent to counter this (the shield points come from it being in the way, not from being hard to grab) – you can only Block. If successful, roll the usual punch or control point damage, and you can cancel out or overwhelm their feeble shield points. This prevents a ST 8 guy with high Shield and a small board from dominating an angry troll or something. There needs to be a point where I don’t care how skillful your shieldwork is, it’s Just Not Enough (this speaks to Mike’s point in the box above).

Parting Shot

This isn’t a “do this” kind of post. It’s more musing about how to make using the shield a proactive thing, that you want to do, with concrete benefits that are tangible, fun, and useful.

I’m really, really not sure how this interacts with the rest of the system, either. This type of thing impacts Feint, Beat, Evaluate, and might even be superior to both Defensive Attacks and All-Out Defense, which would be problematical, to say the least.

It’s just when I got to wondering how to make the points in shield matter, I thought of both On Target, which makes Aim an attack, as well as Setup Attacks, which are a natural to allow and encourage with shield use. It also plays with my thoughts on looking at Mutually Exclusive, Comprehensively Exhaustive attack-defense options (that’s an old post), where bonuses to attack and defense can be somewhat interchangeable, and looking for options for each.

I also note that what I think might be the most intuitive (and in many ways, simply echoes the “generate points, spend points” methodology above) way to handle aggressive shield use is to treat it as a grapple, but with a special case of how to break it (move away, with rules on what consists of away).

Looking at aggressive shield use as grappling will be another post.

“But GURPS is dead,” comes the frequent observation. Untrue, but frequent. With most releases coming via PDF, and nearly all of them only available via the in-house Warehouse23 store, unless you know GURPS, want GURPS, and pay attention to GURPS, likely you won’t see it.

Combine that with a relatively restrictive take on the game mechanics and IP (SJG has no Open Gaming Licence or similar thing, compared to the OSR, Pathfinder, and Fifth Edition, not to mention Fate, GUMSHOE, and others), and finding your way to GURPS is like finding Ultima in the Choose Your Own Adventure book “Inside UFO 54-40.” You could only get there by knowing it was there and doing a dedicated, patient search for it, page by page. That is, you can only find it if you know where and how to look.

No longer. As seen on the July 27 Daily Illuminator:

July 27, 2017: GURPS At Your Favorite Local Game Store!

GURPS Supplement Bundle

You may remember that, not too long ago, we ran a special bundle of GURPS books as a pre-order at Warehouse 23. (Ten books with just one buy button? Sweet!) Well, our partners at Alliance noticed and asked us one question: Can we join in on the fun?

Good news, everybody! Alliance offered the same pre-order GURPS bundle to their retailers, so we can happily report that the recent GURPS print-on-demand softcovers will find their way into dozens of stores. This means a larger GURPS library at those stores, which should help generate some renewed interest in GURPS as we grow closer to the release of the Dungeon Fantasy box set this fall.

Thank you to Alliance for stepping up and working with us to get these bundles into retailers’ hands. We appreciate the support and look forward to collaborating on more bundles shortly.

— Phil Reed

This is fantastic news. Maybe not as good as this and some sort of Open Gaming Licence, but fantastic news nonetheless. Having discounted PoD available in gaming stores gives a shelf presence that will lead to new customers, new players, and an awareness of the game. The upcoming Dungeon Fantasy RPG should provide a nice entry point for the industry’s most popular genre, and then the natural flexibility of the system should break out from there. If the DFRPG is followed by other worked-example genres, I suspect it’ll start to occupy non-trivial shelf space. Certainly at least it’ll be there, to avoid the golfer syndrome: 100% of short putts don’t go in.

Welcome news, and perhaps an unanticipated birthday present for Dr. Kromm.

A week or so ago, I tossed down a concept about how one could encourage flexible and modular “setting” design supporting the upcoming Dungeon Fantasy RPG (Powered by GURPS). The goal would be to have ready-to-inspire areas to tromp around in, kill monsters, and take their stuff.

The idea was reasonably well received. Some active discussion on how fleshed out a setting needed to be, and how if you hewed to multiples of 6-mile hexes, you could potentially mine a vast pool of OSR-flavored stuff that is also 6-miles to the hex.

All true, and all good.

The forum poster Nymdok went ahead and sketched out two hex-sizes for me, one a 20-mile subhex, and the other a 40-mile hex. You can see a sample on the right, with link to his Deviant Art page for download. But if you want to call the sub-hexes 18 or 36 miles, I won’t tell.

The (Ken Hite) Challenge

I’m teasing a bit. Ken has nothing to do with this, other than providing a nice, juicy quote that I’m going to re-use.

I was working with my Dragon Heresy map, and as we were discussing it, he dropped the line “I’m not going to say ‘just use Earth, you big baby.’ But just use Earth, you big baby.” Continue reading “GURPS Hexworld Challenge (with extra bonus Hite action!)”

Welcome to the second year of GURPSDay, and here’s the final pull for you guys.

We’re currently drawing content from 85 blogs, having picked up Matt Riggsby’s Tetsujin no Lllama. Only 15 more to go until we’re pulling from 100! But we’ll need your help.

How? Two action items: post more, recruit more. It’s really that simple. More posters is more posts, and more interest in GURPS.

Below you can find the blog activity for the last week. There’s a whole lotta awesome GURPS going on. Read all 35 posts as of 835pm CST.

Not every blog posts about GURPS every week, but some are ridiculously prolific! The list is randomized, so different bloggers will be highlighted at the top of the post each week.

As always, if you’re interested in having your blog consolidated here, navigate over to The Instructions Page and drop me a line. Take special note of the RSS Settings Fix if you’re on WordPress.
Continue reading “GURPS Day Summary Apr 21 – Apr 27, 2017”

It’s time for an update on Gaming Ballistic!

Dungeon Grappling

Great sales in March, thanks to the GM’s Day sale on DTRPG have been followed by lackluster sales in April, with four copies sold (though two print copies, which I love seeing – not because of all the extra money, an extra few dollars per book, but because I do think it’s a good book to hold in your hands).

At this point, with only two sales, I can conclude “The Art of Dungeon Grappling” as a failed experiment. Alas.

I’ll be bringing a bunch of stock with me to the Independent Game Design Network’s booth at GenCon, though, as well as shipping some stock over to their warehousing team.

I’ve not heard much from play reports, though. I’m hoping folks that use the game in play do give me feedback, and session reports. Consider this a request!

There’s also an error that’s come up twice in questions that is, thus far, the only errata that’s been reported to me. In the 5e example, while Thorfirr’s STR score is called out correctly, I made a typo in his attack roll, and so the paragraph introducing him on p. 41 should read as follows, with a 1d20+3 replacing the mis-typed 1d20+2. I’ve bolded the stuff that is relevant.

THORFIRR. A second-level fighter, and keeping his stats from the PFRPG gives STR 16 (+3), DEX 11 (+0), CON 11 (+0), and WIS 16 (+3). His AC is 16, he has 16 HP, his attack rolls are at +5, but lacking Athletics proficiency, he only grapples at 1d20+3. His Grapple DC is 13, from his Strength (Athletics) bonus of +3. His Control Maximum is 20 (his STR of 16, no DEX bonus, and 2× his +2 proficiency bonus).

Venture Beyond

We are very, very close to having a complete manuscript. The last reports I have had from David show a level of optimism about how the rules are coming together.

Unsurprisingly, it’s coming in at the longer estimate of wordcount, and so I’m going to predict the book will be about the size of the Fate System Toolkit, with the adventure books each being fifty or sixty pages each. That’s not really a change, but it is a confirmation.

Once I have the manuscripts in hand, things should go fairly quickly. I’ve got some mockups of kickstarter graphics banners that I did myself, and Juan took a look at them and thought he could improve them (doubtless true). I’ll post a preview there when I have them, but for now, my first effort is shown above.

The look is designed to be “retro-tech,” and as does the book’s layout, it features a Hubble space background, and block, easy-to-read text with a raster-scan look to it. The space to the right is to hold some art.

Dragon Heresy

I spoke with Ken a few days ago, and we chatted about the perils of big projects during a busy time for successful freelancers. Anyway, things are more clear, and I can anticipate getting edited manuscripts bit by bit as April turns into mid-May.

I’ve also got some amazing preliminary sketchwork from Michael. My original concept for the covers got tweaked just a little, but frankly it’s better the new way, and I think everyone will be really happy when they see it. I’ve been sending him images and art direction based on some of the recent Viking stuff I’ve been doing and seeing, and it’s paying off. I know that’s a bit of vague-booking, but I don’t want to give the game away on this one – it’s going to be a great reveal, though.

I also hope folks are enjoying Monster Mondays. There’s a decent amount of info in those posts, and they show off the flavor of how critters will look and act in Dragon Heresy.

Project M

Regardless of that, there’s some movement going on in the motion tracker around an expansion for Dragon Heresy that fills one of Ken’s observations, which is that settings are better when the rules are written around the setting (this is the GUMSHOE method), rather than the rules left static and the setting painted over.

Dragon Heresy takes this about halfway – there are a lot of changes and improvements to the melee combat rules, but by and large the magic stuff was left alone. But I’m learning a bloody ton about Viking magic and sorcery, and have some ideas for something optional that would really make for a fun “try it this way instead.” Need more time on that one, but honestly I think it’ll be really cool as an expansion if Dragon Heresy is given what I hope is a warm reception.

Project X

I’ve always had more things in mind for the Dragon Heresy game, and based on some conversations I’ve had with a few people, what that will be is starting to firm in my mind. There will be a vast amount of downtime when the DH art is being created, and that time will be used to create the next iteration of the Dragon Heresy project. I know a whole bunch of folks that will be pleased with the results.

The Blog

With a bit of flutter happening over at Steve Jackson Games over the Dungeon Fantasy RPG, as well as me getting back into the “write content nearly every day” mode, my traffic is starting to creep back up. I had a bunch of ballistics-related posts, some Dungeon Fantasy RPG posts, and at least one Viking post. More of that this weekend, actually!

One thing I desperately need to revitalize are my “index pages.” I have well over 1,000 posts, and some of them are great stuff, especially for GURPS players when we were doing more regular Melee Academy posts. Right now, if you click on each header you get a date-sorted list of all posts in the category. I need to add an option that takes you to a simple list of clickable titles.

This will be needed for at least the Melee Academy, GURPS 101, and Firing Squad sections, plus the Reloading Press. The rest can wait, but I need to figure out how that’s done Real Soon Now.

 

 

A lot of my “index pages” have gone the way of the dodo since my migration from Blogger to WordPress, and while I take time to fix that, I wanted to offer up something as a reminder and a bit of a throwback.

I have conducted quite a few interviews, some recently, some a while ago, with SJG staff and freelancers. Since the upcoming Dungeon Fantasy RPG (Powered by GURPS) game has passed some big hurdles and is headed off to print, perhaps in time for GenCon.

So with that, here are some interviews, in reverse date order. Some special things about them is that each of them has a text transcript – you can read them, listen to them (MP3), and/or watch them. For the most recent ones, I use post-production to try and do a bit of value add, showing products and images relevant to the conversation. But, without further ado, here’s the list of interviews with SJG folks and freelancers on The Firing Squad. (The PK/Hunter one wasn’t mine; it was a transcript with which I was gifted).

I’ve updated the older posts so the text flows better, but at the cost of losing some of the graphics. Trust me – it’s better this way.
Continue reading “Steve Jackson Games – Interviews on The Firing Squad”

Phil Reed said:
Re: The Future of the DFRPG

Quote:
Originally Posted by Turhan’s Bey CompanyView Post
From a GM’s point of view, a single Pyramid article can’t contain nearly enough material to be useful.

Also: Hidden behind a wall.

What would be a far more valuable approach to “Imma make a setting!” would be a dedicated blog. Regular updates. Free to the world. Tagged and properly categorized posts. A Dungeon Fantasy Patreon, for example, with free and pay content . . . and then everything collected after X months into a book.

And with those words by Phil Reed, a fire was kindled. Quickly tamped down, though. Start here at Phil’s post, and then read on, and you’ll see that SJG isn’t really contemplating any immediate changes to their online policy or method for supporting GURPS.

The topic of conversation, of course, involved what might help support the Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game (DFRPG hereafter), and one thing that has been floated is having some sort of official setting, or something similar. Rob Conley offered up his Blackmarsh as an example, and Matt Riggsby (Turhan’s Bey Company on the forums and other names elsewhere) countered that Blackmarsh was more in the line of a location.

Now, Blackmarsh’s quoted land area is about 12,000 square miles. This is the land area of Maryland.

The primary map of Golarion is said to be about 6.25 million square miles. Iceland, whose Vikings, unlike my own from Minnesota, actually managed to range forth and conquer stuff, is 40,000 square miles. Great Britain (and Minnesota, actually) both are on the order of 80-90,000 square miles (Minnesota is larger than all of Great Britain). Great Britain, of course, as of roughly 1920 ruled over the largest empire in the world. And also managed to host the legends of Arthur, Robin Hood, and the real Hundred Years War and rather much else.

I was pondering how to allow some freedom for other parties to create for the DFRPG, to provide both ample room for creativity and different artistic and cultural voices while at the same time giving common threads that would allow a GM to simply pick and choose from these settings in a way that was both coherent and pleasing.

And I think I have. Continue reading “Woden’s Day Wanderings: A Flexible Setting for DFRPG”