A one-hour interview with GURPS Line Editor +Sean Punch. In the interview, we cover GURPS‘ strengths and weaknesses, compare and contrast it a bit to other game systems, muse on the state of the RPG industry, discuss “realism” in games, and much more. At the end, Sean talks a bit about how to write well for GURPS, now that the pipeline seems to be open again.

This is my first video interview ever – not just for this blog. I will be attempting to add useful content to this post over time, including (eventually) a text transcript of the entire thing, since I find it entirely annoying when I have to play a video to get good content. So stay tuned.

Oh, and at the end, Sean throws down a bit of a challenge, which I will gleefully take up when I’m better at this: a panel discussion featuring more than one key player in the GURPS space. As was said about the Six Million Dollar Man, “we have the technology,” and there’s no reason such a good idea should go to waste.

I provided Sean a list of questions ahead of time, but other than a few moments where I forgot that the interview is not about what I have to say, I mostly let him talk. Here are some notable moments, messages, and themes:

I would be remiss if I didn’t thank Sean for giving me so much of his time to conduct this interview!

Again: in case you missed the embedded link, here’s a full-text transcript and an MP3 file of this same interview.

 Links to GURPS various style guides and templates, from the Wish List:

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

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

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

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

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

Three that I’ve learned from Peter?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why not grab a copy today?

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

Master Grappling . . . or Face Defeat!

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

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

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

You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.
You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table.
There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done.
-Kenny Rogers, “The Gambler”

+Peter V. Dell’Orto recently ran a truly epic Dungeon Fantasy combat. Something like 15 hours and 90 or so combatants. It was tense and interesting the entire time. He followed up the play report with a note on how he balances encounters (hint: he doesn’t), and as I read through both wonderful posts, I had a thought occasioned by the recap of what could have gone wrong, and right:

After the fight Dryst’s player and I talked about it as we cleaned up (me my minis, maps, and PC; him, wiping the battlemat for me.) Had Christoph the Scout also been there, or if Borriz was there, or Honus – basically, if there was just one more PC-level delver – the fight would have been much shorter. Or if Dryst had just a few more paut potions or a bigger power item. Or if Galen had a spare bow once his broke, instead of needing to waste turns scrounging up a tiny shortbow to plink with. We both figure the fight would have been much shorter and lopsided in favor of the PCs.

But had the PCs been a smaller group – say, had Dryst and Honus smashed the door guards with ease a few sessions back and managed to force the door and get into the temple – it would have probably been a TPK.

Each of these things is effectively a “what if,” where the decision was made (actively or implicitly) to press on and keep fighting, to engage or fall back, based on a series of events.

It occurred to me that (bear with me here) my wife and I were encouraged to come up with a highly specific “birth plan” for my daughter, but when something that was not on our expectations list occurred – my daughter reacted in utero to some external stimuli by flipping on her head and thus presenting a breach birth – our only recourse was to basically chuck the plan and improvise. That worked out well for my daughter, but for adventurers (ah ha! he returns to the point . . . ) this doesn’t always go well.

So, (and I fully expect +Mark Langsdorf ) to jump in here with more: this is his forte) how many parties have a list of things, if-then statements, that can take a turn for the worst or a twist of fate and prevent them from spiraling into TPK?

I suspect very few.

What questions should you ask?

Let’s Start with the Spectacularly Fatal

Well, one thing you can be sure to ask is what happens if any given party member is one-shotted into incapacity by some beast. Given the lack of redundancy in many roleplaying parties skill sets, this could range from trivial (we had four melee fighters, three front-line capable and one second-ranker; now we have two and one, respectively. OK, keep going) to catastrophic (we are being attacked by a diffuse swarm only affected by magical fire, and our only party member capable of producing explosive magical fire is now a pile of steaming viscera).

The party really should have some plan in mind when one of the niches that are carefully preserved by DF templates is no longer filled. This could be a fighting (or screaming) withdrawal, a concentrated effort to get the party healer to the downed foe, or launching bottles of paut and Greater Healing at the guy with a sling. Whatever works, use it – but have a plan.

War, HUH! What is it good for?

The other thing that’s often (and entertainingly) left undecided in DF and standard popcorn fantasy (and I say this very fondly) is some sense of why the battle is happening. In Peter’s case, his players deliberately set out to pick a fight with a known numerically superior foe – the newtmen – in order to make subsequent delves less dangerous, and perhaps allow them to concentrate on the Lord of Spite. Either/or is bad enough, but both/and has been figured to be pretty fatal.

So this group went looking for a fight, and found one. It was almost more than they could handle, but it turned out OK.

Still: how many fights does your party get into that are basically without any sort of strategic goal? What are you trying to do?

  • Take and hold a particular area of ground?
  • Destroy and/or kill a particular adversary?
  • Survive, or otherwise get out of the encounter alive?
  • Thin out resistance, and therefore maybe not have to fight to the last man?
  • Simply traverse an area which may or may not have live and hostile opposition in it?

Huh. Lot of options here other than “fight a pitched battle to the last man standing.”

The fourth one is really interesting, because it gives the option to spread the conflict over many battles, each of which is hopefully fought on the PCs terms. You enter the room, hopefully surprise the foe, engage in a few rounds of totally one-sided combat, and then do a fighting (or magical!) withdrawal.

Who bothers to use invisibility as a planned “let’s withdraw from combat” strategy, rather than a “let’s get into position so that our pitched battle ends favorably?” Heck, I know I’ve never really thought this way, but perhaps I should.

Resource Management

Healing, magical spells/fatigue, expendables. All of these are held as a resource pool and used up in any given delve or fight. I know in our current DF game that +Nathan Joy  runs, one of the things we used to do when we had a “real wizard” is to have Mark blow through Brother Michel’s FP reserve for magical spells, and then he’d fall back and become a second-line melee fighter.

Why the hell would we do it that way, especially regularly? Well, sometimes there’s no choice. Lots of foes, nowhere to run to, etc. But we should have always been looking for a way to keep the spellslinger in the game. That includes fighting defensively, strategic withdrawals and pauses, etc.

Furthermore, as Peter’s “the Scout’s bow broke” example shows, many PCs are one Disarm or critical failure away from pretty much being totally useless. If Cadmus, Pharasma forbid, drops his axe, he has gone from a pretty good fighter (he’s good, but he’s no Thumvar) to flailing away with his fists, a Judo Throw he can’t use because it defaults to Axe/Mace, or a shield bash. He has no backup weapon, and his learned prayers, while mighty against the undead, don’t do squat vs. an irritated drunk orc.

So, what’s your party’s plan if the Scout runs out of arrows (unlikely with a cornucopia quiver), their weapon breaks, or you find yourself facing a foe where pi and imp attacks suck? What happens if your line fighter drops his primary weapon? What’s the plan when your magic user is down to their second-to-last bottle of paut, or the group healer is gutted or tired?

Don’t have one?

Maybe you should.

Now ev’ry delver knows that the secret to survivin’
Is knowin’ what to throw away and knowing what to keep.
‘Cause ev’ry fight’s a winner and ev’ry fight’s a loser,
And the best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep.”
-Ken’i R’grs, “The Delver”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep it Simple, Keep it Safe

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

AP Costs

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

AP Maintenance Costs

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

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

Parting Shot

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

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

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

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

New Advantage: Ferret on Crack

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

Will it work in play?

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

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

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

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

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

90% chance to hit is 14 or less

So 30 – 10 + X = 14; X = -6

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

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

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

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

Acc 1 at 30 yards? 10.8″

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

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

What does that have to do with anything?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Would you REALLY do this in play?

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

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

Parting Shot

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

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

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

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

With special guest star +Peter V. Dell’Orto

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fine with me. Naturally, I like HT.

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

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

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

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


This is sort-of off topic for my blog, but here we go:

I’m interested in procuring some scale armor. it doesn’t have to be historically perfect, or even associated with a particular time or style (but it could be), but finding reputable vendors of such is a bit hard. So I’m crowd-sourcing: anyone know of good makers?

I’d be willing to branch away from scale, or even a combination of scale, mail, or whatnot. I’d like it to be more western style than not, but this could be modified if there were something sufficiently cool, such as this Korean/Mongol armor which is entirely badass. Also the stainless etched plate ensemble.

Anyway, I’m interested in any thoughts or comments.