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 . . .

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:
Column 1
   Button Gwinnett
   Lyman Hall
   George Walton
Column 2
North Carolina:
   William Hooper
   Joseph Hewes
   John Penn
South Carolina:
   Edward Rutledge
   Thomas Heyward, Jr.
   Thomas Lynch, Jr.
   Arthur Middleton
Column 3
John Hancock
Samuel Chase
William Paca
Thomas Stone
Charles Carroll of Carrollton
George Wythe
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Jefferson
Benjamin Harrison
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Carter Braxton
Column 4
   Robert Morris
   Benjamin Rush
   Benjamin Franklin
   John Morton
   George Clymer
   James Smith
   George Taylor
   James Wilson
   George Ross
   Caesar Rodney
   George Read
   Thomas McKean
Column 5
New York:
   William Floyd
   Philip Livingston
   Francis Lewis
   Lewis Morris
New Jersey:
   Richard Stockton
   John Witherspoon
   Francis Hopkinson
   John Hart
   Abraham Clark
Column 6
New Hampshire:
   Josiah Bartlett
   William Whipple
   Samuel Adams
   John Adams
   Robert Treat Paine
   Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island:
   Stephen Hopkins
   William Ellery
   Roger Sherman
   Samuel Huntington
   William Williams
   Oliver Wolcott
New Hampshire:
   Matthew Thornton

A retroactive (and oft-repeated) introduction: After an actual-play hiatus where I was mostly writing and playtesting for GURPS. I was invited to play in a Pathfinder game, and after a few sessions, it was time to buy the book and learn the rules! I decided to try and read the Pathfinder rules cover-to-cover and see what inspiration strikes, for good or ill!

This is a compilation of the links to read-throughs of Pathfinder-related material

Pathfinder Core Rulebook

0.  Prelude
1.  Introduction
2.  Races

3a. Classes (Barbarian – Monk)
3b. Classes (Paladin – Wizard)


When last we left our heroes, we were just finishing up the section on recovering from wounds in the Combat chapter, with some snarky notes on so-called “non-lethal” damage. Ah, well, Pathfinder isn’t the only game to make that mistake, and so we continue.

Movement, Position, and Distance

The game first drops something that’s not really a surprise, but is one of those “oh, OK, then” moments. It basically requires, or at least strongly encourages, miniatures and a mapboard to play, and even gives you the desired scale of the minis: 30mm.
In any event, the game is resolved on a square grid with 5′ squares, and you basically take your move, modify it for your size and any special encumbrance you have, and divide by 5′, and you get that many squares. For most PCs, that number is likely six.
Diagonal movement counts 3 squares for every 2 squares traversed, but it’s broken up as your first diagonal only costs 1 square, but your second – no matter where in the sequence it comes – counts as 2 squares. So net/net, you pay the right amount. Don’t do the “1-2-1-2-1” thing through difficult terrain, though – if you’re doing that, move costs are doubled, so each diagonal costs you the full 3 squares, rather than something staggered.
Moving Through a Square

Now we get into special case land. It’s probably wise to note down the things your character will expect to do a lot, and jot down the rules. You can always move through a friend, unless you’re charging. You can’t move through a foe, unless he’s helpless. Or big. You can’t put two critters in one 5′ square, again unless he’s helpless. If you’re trying an “overrun,” you can try and move through hs hex, but it might backfire on you. You can move through a foe’s hex if you’re using acrobatics, or you’re fine, diminutive, or tiny. 
Got that? Oh, well, sometimes it’s wrong, but exceptions will be noted.
Critter Size

While big guys are easy (they fill their squares, so stay out), you can jam 4 Tiny guys, 25 Diminutives, or 100 Fine nasties in one 5′ square, and by and large they can’t reach into adjacent squared to attack, so they have to enter your hex, provoke an attack of opportunity, live through it, and then crawl up your pant leg.
The only other thing to note about large guys is that using natural attacks, instead of weapons, they threaten not just the ring of squares 10′ away, but the adjacent squares as well. Take note, be warned, etc. You’re not safe one square away from these guys.
Combat Modifiers

The game differentiates mechanically between cover and concealment, which should please my infantryman friends. However, the flat distribution of die rolls makes this interesting. Wait and see.
For Cover, you basically pick a corner of your own square (naturally the most advantageous one), and if the line from that corner to any corner of your foe’s occupied squares passes through a wall or other hard obstacle, then your foe has some sort of cover.
If the entire foe is occluded, you can’t attack him at all. If up to 50% is covered (partial cover), your foe gets +2 to his AC, and if from 50-99% is covered, he gets +4. There are some picky rules about half-height obstacles, and covered foes can get bonuses to Reflex saves (+2) under some circumstances. There’s also improved cover which can give +8 to your foe’s AC, but that’s GM discretion for things like arrow slits.
Note that what full cover does, effectively, is make your foe 20% more difficult to hit. 
For Concealment, you’re more or less using the same resolution mechanics, but when you’re done, a concealed foe rolls d% and you miss 20% of the time, or 50% of the time if you’re shooting into a totally concealed square that contains your foe but you can’t see him.
That’s not quite the same as “you’re 20% more difficult to hit,” since that AC adjustment can take you from (say) hitting 50% of the time to hitting 30% of the time. With the “you miss 20% of your hits,” you’d go from hitting 50% of the time to hitting (50% hit rate x [1-20% miss rate] = ) 40% of the time.  If you were hitting 80% of the time, you’d be down to 64%, but if you only had a 20% chance to hit to begin with (say, 1d20 vs AC 17) then rather than it being basically impossible for you to hit (1d20 vs AC 21) you could still roll a potential hit 20% of the time, but 20% of those hits would convert to misses – a 12% net chance of success.
So concealment is similar in resolution but less harsh mechanically.

In melee combat, if you and a friend are threatening the other guy from opposite sides, you’re flanking him, and you get +2 to hit. Pretty sure that if you and a buddy are flanking a foe, you get to apply your Sneak Attack damage, so ths one’s pretty key. 
Note that just being “behind” someone doesn’t seem to qualify (at least, not at this point in the rules). You need to be splitting his attention between two people.
Special Attacks
The last sprint to the finish contains a bunch of special attack types, including Aid Another, Charge, Combat Maneuvers, Feint, Mounted Combat, Throw Splash Weapon, and Two-Weapon Fighting.

Aid Another: You and your buds can make attacks vs AC 10, and each one that succeeds can give a designated friend either +2 to his hit roll or +2 to his AC, and those adds stack. 
Charge: Near as I can tell, using a full action you can travel up to 2x your normal move, but only in a straight line unhindered by any obstacles or difficult terrain. You need to end in attack range, whereupon you get +2 to your hit roll and -2 to your AC. You may only attack once. If you’re using a lance (pay attention, knight wannabees) while mounted, you do double damage by default. If you’re charging a group of guys with braced weapons, you’re going to be on the receiving end of said double damage.
Feint:  As +Fred Brackin pointed out many moons ago, this important special attack, if successul, denies your foe his DEX bonus on the subsequent turn. Since lots of nifty Rogue and certain Archer abilities are keyed to “your foe loses his DEX bonus,” this is a great way to benefit from things like Sneak Attack without having to flank or stealth your way into place. It’s Bluff on your end, vs. 10+BAB+Wisdom modifier, or 10+Sense Motive bonus if it’s higher.
Mounted Combat: Mounts have some nice features. They act on your Initiative, and when they move (and ergo, you go along for the ride), they use up their own move action, not yours. That being said, you only ever get one attack while mounted if you also move, but you may still charge, and if you’re striking down at a foe, you get a +1. You can still hack away with multiple attacks if you only take your five-foot step, though.
Throw Splash Weapon: The Alchemist’s favorite. You can toss something that does a bunch of nastiness and it will do direct damage to whomever it hits as a ranged touch attack and splashes everyone within five feet of that individual. You may also target the vertex of a square at only AC 5. You lose your chance to do direct damage, but hey, AC 5, and you splash the four squares attached to that vertex. Your GM will afterwards keep proper separation between his NPCs; or the PCs will do likewise if they’re on the receiving end of this. 
Two-Weapon Fighting: The Ranger’s fave, basically anyone can do this, but the penalties can suck. If you have a light weapon in your off hand, it gets better, if you have the Two-Weapon Fighting feat, it’s better still, and if you combine ’em, you can attack twice at only -2 each. Since that’s only a 10% loss to success chances, unless your chances of hitting are worse than 25%, you will want to use two weapons if you are only -2 to hit. If you only have Two-Weapon fighting, you are at -4 to each attack, and so you make one attack if your chance of success on a single attack is worse than 50%. Your odds of missing with both double-weapon attacks are larger than your odds of missing with your single shot. On the high end, swing twice, always. Untrained, it’s never better to use two weapons without the feat unless you effectively can’t fail. That’s not a sophisticated damage per attack round analysis, though, just a “don’t miss” one. Properly, you’d take the weighted average damage of one hit vs. the weighted average (at reduced hit chance) of two, which can have two hits, one hit, or none. Not in the mood tonight.

In the comments section, +Fred Brackin does a pretty good job of demolishing Two-Weapon Fighting as a good plan. While the straight-up to-hit odds sorta favor you in the first analysis as above, he does a better calculation vs a typical armor class in terms of damage over ten rounds. He also makes the point of what you give up to get this two-weapon ability by selecting a feat, as well as the AC bonus from a shield. Plus, two-handed weapons like greatswords kinda rock. Scroll down and read the whole thing, and you might come to the conclusion that two-weapon fighting is a waste of time!

Combat Manuevers

This deserves its own section. You can do one of these using your Combat Maneuver Bonus, equal to your BAB+STR modifier+any special size modifier, and bigger is better. On the Defense, your target number benefits from both STR and DEX, and once again size helps.
What can you do?
Bull Rush: As part of a standard action or charge, you can try and push a foe straight back without doing any harm. This is football. You can theoretically even bull rush two or more foes, if you can absorb the -4 penalty per critter, but you get a new roll each time.
Disarm: Doing this provokes an attack of opportunity. But the value is obvious if you can pull it off. If you win, he drops one item of your choice; win by 10, and both hands are empty. Fail by 10 or more, and you disarm yourself. Oops. If you managed to do this while unarmed yourself, you can take the weapon from him and keep it, automatically. 
Grapple: Provokes an Attack of Opportunity. If you win, you change his state to grappled. He can’t move, is -4 to DEX, and -2 to all attacks that don’t involve breaking the grapple. See p. 567. Actually, don’t. See here instead (this online rules stuff is kinda cool at times). From grappled, you can also Move him, damage him with an unarmed attack, pin him, or even tie him up. Go go gadget bondage!
Overrun: This is one way to move through a foe’s hex without his permission. He can get out of the way, which lets you pass. If you win the maneuver check, you go through, win by 5 or more, you knock him prone.

Sunder: Break his stuff! Make an attack on his weapon, and you can damage or destroy it.
Trip: An attempt to knock your foe prone from up close, as opposed to an accidental/extra-good result of an Overrun. 
Special Initiative Actions

There are a few things you can also do with turn order.
Delay: This voluntarily sets your initiative to a lower number than what you rolled for the rest of the combat. You can do this multiple times, reducing (but never raising) your Initiative number.
Ready: Prepare to take a specified action at some time between your initiative count and your next turn. This one also resets your initiative count, but only (I think) if you actually interrupt another character with your action. So you have Init 17, and you’re waiting for that spellcaster to poke his face out of cover on Init 8 to shoot him with an arrow. He pokes out on his turn, and you shot him in the face. Your Initiative is now effectively 8.1 – you go right before the wizard, for the rest of the combat.
You can attack spellcasters to distract them, you can ready counterspells, and you can also ready weapons against a charge – and you go first, assuming your reach is longer than his . . . 
Parting Shot
And that’s the combat chapter! I’ve already learned some new things, so it was definitely worthwhile. Still a lot of special cases, which you can and should avoid by Being a Better Player. A bit of pre-prep in a game as rules-exception heavy as this one can go a long way. 

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!

If you’ve noticed that my posting velocity has slowed over the past few weeks, you can quite simply just blame David Weber.

On the recommendation of +Jill McTavish, since I’d complained that I’d read through most of my fluff reading that I do to decompress after work, she passed on to me the first five volumes of the series on eBook.

The series is basically Horiatio Hornblower . . . innnn spaaaace! And when I say this, I say it as someone who devoured every single Hornblower book that was available on eBook format that I could get my hands on. I also have read the Temeraire series as well as most, but not all, of the Aubrey-Maturin novels (think Master and Commander).

So if you get the feeling that I really enjoy the heck out of Age of Sail stories, you’re not wrong. If you think that saying this is Hornblower in space is somehow derogatory statemetn, you are, in fact, mistaken.

In fact, I’m seriously considering taking my interest in Age of Sail action/adventure and doing more with it, from a GURPS point of view. I’ve had a couple chats with a few people in GURPS-world, and I’m sure I could do something I think people would like. Only question in my mind would be “Pyramid or e23,” but I’d write it first, and then figure out the best venue. But there are enough foundations already out there that nudging them together into something workable for the late 18th century (or swashbucklers and pirates and Napoleonic naval awesomeness in general) feels like it would be more evolution than innovation.

Sorry for those who read my first version of this post and thought I wanted to wade into the Honorverse with some sort of supplement. While I could probably do such a thing, +Fred Brackin captures some of the mechanical issues in the comments section.

But back to Honor Harrington. There are a lot of books. The Wiki lists the ones written by Weber as full novels as follows:

Honor Harrington series[edit]

  1. On Basilisk Station (April 1993) ISBN 0-671-57793-X
  2. The Honor of the Queen (June 1993) ISBN 0-671-57864-2
  3. The Short Victorious War (April 1994) ISBN 0-671-87596-5
  4. Field of Dishonor (October 1994) ISBN 0-671-57820-0
  5. Flag in Exile (September 1995) ISBN 0-671-31980-9
  6. Honor Among Enemies (February 1996) ISBN 0-671-87723-2
  7. In Enemy Hands (July 1997) ISBN 0-671-57770-0
  8. Echoes of Honor (October 1998) ISBN 0-671-57833-2
  9. Ashes of Victory (March 2000) ISBN 0-671-57854-5
  10. War of Honor (October 2002) ISBN 0-7434-3545-1
  11. At All Costs (November 2005) ISBN 1-4165-0911-9
  12. Mission of Honor (June 2010) ISBN 1-4391-3361-1
  13. A Rising Thunder (March 6, 2012) ISBN 1-4516-3806-6

I’ve barreled my way through the first nine books, and am currently starting War of Honor. I have lost far too many hours of sleep (I can only read at night) to this series. Weber has a nice way of blending deep interest in the characters themselves with plausible-enough military tactics, with a very nice depth of technology. It’s not quite so in-your-face as a technothriller like a Clancy novel, but there is very clearly a deep, wide background of basically self-consistent tech.

Parting Shot

The Honorverse would make a very good RPG setting. It could certainly be done, and with tweaks to +David Pulver‘s SpaceShips system, done very well, in GURPS. I’d seen with a brief search that there might have been a d20 and/or WEG d6 version (the d20 version would leave me flat; the WEG d6 would rock on toast).
But boy would it be fun to take the GURPS ruleset and tech base, nab something like the Honorverse Companion, House of Steel, and start laying down the tech base and character archetypes. I think it would probably be a decision whether to do this as a Action! title, or a strict realism type. The overall high point values of the main characters would make me tend towards Action, but these guys are real people, even if Honor herself would be spectacularly high point value.
But that’s why I’ve not been online as much as usual: when I’m not at work or being a dad, I’m curled up on the couch reading Weber.
I most often throw down
some sort of tidbit or observation on rules and tinkering with them on
GURPS-Day, but today, my mind is on campaigns.
I’m starting to get the
itch to GM one again. Not out of disappointment with the three in which I’m
playing, but it’s a good way to ensure familiarity with the system, exercise
creative muscles, and generally ensure some proactive social action on my part.
So, with that, what
would I run? Not sure, but some possibilities in no particular order:
Krail’s Folly
The concept of “go
north and conquer the wilderness, and you get lands and title in exchange”
was hashed out a while back, and the game concept carries as much appeal now as
it did then.
I’d vacillate a bit, but
likely come down to using Dungeon Fantasy as the core basis. It is, quite
simply, the best supported part of GURPS, with tons of cool stuff. I’ve also
got a direct line into +Nathan Joy‘s pool of players, far more
experienced in playing this genre than I am. Of course, +Peter V. Dell’Orto is no slouch either, and
since he and I collaborate on stuff on a regular basis rather well, there’s a
monster pool of talent I can go to. Not to mention rules-authors and tinkerers
such as +Antoni Ten Monrós.
What would I bring to
the table? Well, I’d still use Divine Favor for clerical powers, since I
really do love the feel of it. I might tweak out a few things, since as Peter
points out in today’s post over at Dungeon Fantastic, there are a few
potentially fun-killing/fun-reducing aspects of Divine Favor’s Learned Prayers
that could use some tampingdown.
I like the granularity
of the Low-Tech armor and weapons and whatnot, but I am right there with Peter
in thinking that it’s a bit too fiddly. GCA can be used pretty well to design
kits of armor, even very complicated ones. But there’s something rather nice
about NOT having to get crazy with it, and fine tuning each piece gets
What about my own rules?
The Deadly Spring for bows is a behind-the-curtain thing. So all that work is
done ahead of time, and won’t interfere with the game much . . . but “realistic”
bows in Dungeon Fantasy? Meh, what’s the point? So I might bypass that in favor
of ridiculous levels of smackdown. More fun that way.
Magic? Ah, there’s the
rub. From what I’ve seen of Ritual Path Magic, I like the feel of the system
but it seems every bit as fiddly as the armor-building issue I talked about
above. I’d be tempted to try a Divine-Favor inspired magic system, but then, really, that’s not that different in fiddly
than Divine Favor or RPM – you’re still creating “spells” based on some sort of
metasystem, and as long as you ruthlessly quash “let me design a spell while I’m
sitting at the table” behavior, it’d probably go fine.
I’d definitely bring on
the Setup Attacks I introduced in Delayed Gratification. I might even eliminate
the RAW Feint entirely. Not sure about that, but likely.
I would probably try to
use Technical Grappling too, since it would be way easier for me to answer future
questions about that book if I’d had experience playing it and adjudicating the
Would I also do
long-term fatigue and action points, from The Last Gasp? Grar . . . might be
nice, but that would make a LOT of new rules to swallow, and both TLG and TG
require characters to be built with those rules in mind. So I’d probably skip
the Action Point rules this time.
Monster Hunters
This is probably my
favorite genre of all time. It combines creepy horror and magic with a world
that we’re more or less all familiar with, and has the over-the-top  Black Ops feel that I loved when I GM’d that
campaign years ago, without being 1,000-point characters.
I feel like it’s got a
nice combination of swords, guns, and monsters. Action Points and TG would fit
in here pretty well, I’d not have to worry about Low-Tech fiddliness (though I
would have High-Tech fiddles, but that’s rather well defined due to the nature
of it being right-here, right now).
This also lends well to
being an episodic campaign that can see players come and go without too much
pain. Given the variability in modern adult life, I think that would lend
itself well to my needs.
Modern Special Ops
I was Lead Playtester on
Tactical Shooting for a reason: I’m pretty familiar with this trope, and I love
laying out tactical challenges. I could also see doing this as a variable tech
level science fiction setting, Colonial Marines style, and near-future (TL8/9)
Sci Fi is pretty familiar to most people. Hell, given how much fun I had
playing the game, GURPS X-Com would rock on toast.
Parting Shot
I’d obviously see who’d
want to play in each campaign, how often (but no more  than twice a month, but no less frequently
than once every three weeks, I think) and if someone says “hey, wouldn’t it be
cool to run X” and I get inspired, I’m in.
But I really do kind of
want to run a game, and I’d love to get my wife in on it; she’s gamed with me
before and we’ve both enjoyed the experience.
One thing I would do,
however, is have to learn MapTool or Roll20 way, way better. I would also insist
that all players use webcams, because my experience is that the camera experience
is simply better (for me) than the
chat-based games. It’s faster, more social, and for me, more fun.
I’m getting that itch,
though – and it might be time to run something again.

I’m taking the really useful and fun stuff being written for Melee Academy, as well as other good posts that come my way, and collecting them under a separate page: Melee Academy.

Watch this page for new stuff that helps get people’s arms wrapped around fightin’ in GURPS, and if you see something on another page that belongs here, let me know and I’ll add it!

Right now I’ve got material from Gaming Ballistic, Dungeon Fantastic. RPG Snob, No School Grognard, and Orbs and Balrogs. I’m happy to add any relevant material as long as it gives tactical and skills related advice for combat in GURPS!

+Jake Bernstein sent me this note via my Google profile, and it seemed like a good topic by itself:

Just had a random thought about this topic. I’m pondering a Banestorm game, and I am thinking of how to resolve the very “in-play” specific problem of archers and mages needing lots of time to get off their attacks. What’s to stop the melee fighters from just going to town? In 150 point games, the calculus is bound to be different compared to the 250 point combat-focused delvers in DF. So, I thought, should people learn to Evaluate more? But why would you evaluate more if the other guy can just pound on you while you sit and watch him? At low skill, this is dangerous–your defenses aren’t going to be impregnable! So, here’s the idea: what if Evaluate could be combined with All-Out Defense?? Alternately, what if Evaluate gave the same bonus to your defenses, until you attacked? Either way, the point is that Evaluate would boost your defenses while you were doing it. I think this MIGHT give people reason to try it more often, especially in a lower power game. Since you have been noodling on this subject for a while, I thought I’d ask you specifically. Feel free to use any or all of this on your blog, if it sparks any ideas in you! THanks!

So, what happens when you step away from Dungeon Fantasy power levels? The thing about a DF Scout, especially with a few juicy house rules, is that it’s quite possible for an archer archetype to average more than one arrow every second. There are types of targets that Scouts can’t engage, but rate of fire is not on the problem list.

Mages tend to be a little different, since they’re on the one hand very powerful, and a spell like Burning Death or (in my personal experience as GM) Tickle can be surprisingly effective fight enders, especially for many-on-one fights. Having to spend a few turns gathering up energy is annoying, though – but I have to wonder if it’s worth it. The FP/mana points a character can spend are limited, and spending a few seconds powering up in combat isn’t really the rate-limiting step. It’s the total amount of FP you sling, and once you’re out, you’re out, at least for that fight.

Anyway, +Peter V. Dell’Orto actually came up with another good one (it’s like he does this professionally or something), and suggested that if you spend a FP using Feverish Defense, you could recover it by taking All-Out Defense. He also reminds me that we talked about this once before, and I more or less came up with variations on what’s below then, too. I must like them.

All-Out Defense Combos and Variations

Jake lists a few options above:

Evaluate combines with All-Out Defense

Combines isn’t specific, so let’s see. It could either include AoD in full or in part. So perhaps if you Evaluate, it gives you +2 to one defense, but not the double-defense option (or the other way around). Another fun one would be giving you an extra retreat, instead of just one per round, due to watching out for your surroundings.

He also suggests that Evaluate effectively be All-Out Defense until you attack. I’d have to think about how this works, since Evaluate and Attack are both maneuvers you take on your own turn.

Evaluate is a Focused AoD?

What if Evaluate not only gave you +1 to attack a guy in a following round, but against the target you were evaluating, it also counted as AoD? You would have to choose your target, but you’d be better protected and slightly more likely to hit on the following turn.

I like this quite a bit, actually. You’re watching one foe specifically, and so you get bonuses if you are attacked by him. You don’t take a penalty to other defenses – though maybe you should. If you All-Out Defend (Evaluate), you get the benefits of AoD on your foe, +1 or +2 per round to hit him on your next attack, but you defend against all other foes at -2.

Opportunity Costs
One of the issues, I think, with Evaluate is that the opportunity costs are very high. Sure, you can Evaluate, but what else can you do with your one-second turn?

  • Wait – a darn good option, since by virtue of setting a trigger, it allows you to make your attack of choice under more favorable circumstances (at the risk of not making one at all)
  • Attack – the “just pound on him and/or go fishing for critical hits” is always a viable option (well, often, not always), and can seem more entertaining than doing little/nothing for a turn to get a +1 to hit
  • Move – time to reposition yourself on the battlefield can be rare in GURPS. Moving, especially if you’re moving to a flanking position, or threatening to do so and therefore opening up someone’s flanks, can be a great way to boost effective hit rates for the party as a whole
  • All-Out Defend – Not getting dead is a good thing
  • Feint or Setup Attack – Why settle for a +1 to hit next turn when you can get so much more?

The key to a “successful” Evaluate – meaning making it worth spending a maneuver on – is that it seems like a good choice at the time relative to other things that are available. At the moment, like Jake, I’m not sure it does. Some of the above possibilities might restore that balance.

Parting Shot

Still, it might be worthwhile trying a few 150-point fights in real circumstances first. My very first musings on the ebb and flow of combat basically returned to the classic Dell’Ortism about whether the problem you’re trying to fix has come up in actual play.

This could be that as well, especially at the 100-150 point level . . . but maybe not, and while things like The Last Gasp can make fighters periodically back off (or just go for broke and hope they exhaust the foe before they drop themselves), at lower point levels, playing an archer who gets one shot off every three seconds, at moderate skill level, might wind up being an exercise in frustration.

For the first time in a long time, I made it out to a movie in the actual theater.

I love Superman, and have for a long time. I was a reasonable fan of the Christopher Reeve movies (well, the first two), and enjoyed Lois and Clark and Smallville well enough. I thought Brandon Routh made a very good Superman in Superman Returns.

I had high hopes for Man of Steel, not the least of which is because the trailers were damn effective (three links), and very evocative. Even in the Minecraft version.

It may be hard to avoid spoilers as I discuss this. Be warned.

So, how did it actually work?

+Fred Brackin over in the SJGGames Geek Culture forum posts a pretty devastating (and spoiler-filled) review. I think most of what he says strikes true to me, but let me go through my impressions, since I went to the movie predisposed to like the film.

First off, we spend a lot of time on Krypton in the beginning of the movie. And when things do start to happen, you get the first taste of the frenetic action that seems to characterize a lot of this era of cinematography – shaky cameras and purposefully out-of-focus, sometimes even out-of-frame, action.

I did like the hints of a previous friendship between Zod and Jor-El, and a long life of mutual respect. I did find it odd, as Fred did, that Jor-El went toe-to-toe with Zod and his troops and more or less kicked ass. Apparently the greatest Scientist on Krypton spent his spare time in MMA classes. Or Russel Crowe forgot he wasn’t on the set of Gladiator (or a Kryptonian version of Robin Hood, perhaps).

So, then, we flash forward to Earth, and an adult Clark Kent is on a boat, filming an episode of The Deadliest Catch, with a cameo from The Guardian. That actually was almost a nice touch, since you see that no matter where Clark goes, he can’t help himself from helping people, but he pays the price each time, having to move on.

You also see him steal. Hmm.

The thing is, as soon as I saw the film start with him on the boat, I’ll admit that the only thing I thought at the time was “oh, crap. They’re going to do his entire upbringing in Kansas in flashback.”

And so they did. The chronology was terribly disjointed.

Actually, I think overall, that was the issue with the entire movie, and Fred captures it well: it wasn’t sure what it wanted to be, and therefore neither was I.

Were there good fight scenes between Kryptonians? Yes . . . but the shaky-cam did not help. Could you see homages to other movies and some comic arcs? Well, in addition to Zod, there was the petite female brunette (formerly Ursa, now Faora-Ul), and a nameless giant male, presumably Non.

Lex Luthor was completely absent, though Lexcorp made an appearance as a logo.

Some of the changes made in the reboot made more sense – I liked what they did, sort of, with Superman’s weaknesses. They’re a bit more tightly integrated than the thought of bits of Krypton flung across intergalactic space.

Set Properly Damage to “Holy God.”

I’ll say this for Kryptonians – they are sure helpful when it comes to urban renovation. They destroy so much of the City of Metropolis as collateral damage that it left me with a very, very strong sense of “enough.”  Smallville got its share too.

And the thing that got me is that Clark didn’t really seem to care. Perhaps he didn’t own his role as Earth’s mightiest Hero yet, but honestly, his parents raised him better.

Oh, right. We only saw Dad Costner in a few flashbacks. That explains it.

Parting Shot

I’m still not sure how I feel about this one, honestly. I left the theater after Superman Returns feeling like I could fly myself. I felt Routh owned the character pretty well, nearly channeled Reeve as Kent, and was, well, properly heroic.

I didn’t walk out of the theater feeling that way this time. Maybe if there’s a sequel (and all the setups are there, of course) we’ll get more of that. There’s the roster of villians to be dealt with, and of course we need to meet Lex Luthor at some point. But in terms of how I felt?

Batman Begins was a brilliant re-imagination of the Batman origin story. Really well done, I thought. Hell, though I felt it was too soon, The Amazing Spider Man was a good reboot of the series following the stint Tobey Maguire did (I liked the first two, not so much the third). This one?

I think what it’s leaving me with is “not iconic enough.” I don’t know that makes it a bad film; but it did muck with my expectations of the Big Blue Boy Scout a bit as he’s introduced to the world.

Mulling further on this, a conversation with my wife crystallized some of my discomfort with the movie. By the time he dons the cape in the stories with which I am familiar, Superman is respectful and careful of people’s lives and property. Always. In Man of Steel? Not so much. He steals. He vandalizes people’s property. He deliberately throws some of his nemeses through buildings, destroying them and likely causing people to be injured or killed. And in the end, for laughs, he destroys a piece of Air Force hardware.

OK, that was admittedly funny.

But what I saw in the movie was him figuring out is own character at the same time as he put on the suit. I’m not sure I was ready for that, and honestly, his father raised him better – at least in canon.