+Peter V. Dell’Orto asked me to run him through a fight with Technical Grappling, and we spent a while on Friday night going through one.

You can read Peter’s take on this match up over at Dungeon Fantastic.

Actually, we spent nearly an hour yakkin’ it up, since he’s a great guy to talk to and we have a very large number of overlapping hobbies. Anyway . . .

So, we ran through a fight between  João Dias and a nameless mook with ST 13, DX 11, Knife-12, and Brawling-12. 

Dias won, of course  . . . but that knife was really annoying. A few armed parries caused some damage to Dias, and I walked away with some great take-aways that I’ll probably expand upon later.

  • Like I say in the book, you need to exploit Posture and Position . . . and position is the new thing. Everyone more or less knows about posture – it’s right there in the Basic Set, but the options for Position are new, and should be minded. You really, really want to work into your foe’s side and rear arcs where possible.
  • Rule Zero matters. Always. When Peter rolled our thug over on to his face after throwing him down, technically, his grounded arm wasn’t grappled, right? Yeah, bullcrap. It’s pinned on the ground, and couldn’t be used to break free, and I ruled accordingly. Be sensible. If a grappler accepts the -6 penalty to acquire the foe’s rear arc in an interesting way, reward it.
  • We didn’t even use the weight advantage rules, but when we considered the impact, it meant that the move Dias used to control our thug would have been devastatingly effective, and validated the choice to remove the “Pin” from grappling in GURPS. It’s just not needed.
  • Peter’s ultimate choice was to grapple the thug’s knife arm (for 5 CP), and then follow up by more-or-less kneeling on his neck with the other leg (a 4 CP grapple with one leg). Combined with rolling him over, keeping him prone, and the (notional) weight advantage, this pinned him very effectively
  • The rules for referred control reinforcing through multiple holds work great once you get through the calculation. I need to work on a better description for that, and can think of a neat way to implement a little helper in Excel that will streamline this immensely. It can be done in your head, but why would you?
  • If you have different grappling skills (say, Wrestling and Judo) you will have different Trained ST with each, based on your relative skill level with each. So choose carefully what you’ll do. Control Points, once earned, are generic, so using (say) a superior Trained ST with Wrestling to gain CP and then using Judo to do a throw, spending those CP, and following up with Wrestling for a Takedown or (perhaps surprisingly) an Arm Lock is pretty key.
  • Dias stacked up a dominating positional and control point advantage over the thug. He was “pinned,” but he could still eke out an attempt to break free using an All-Out Telegraphic Attack for +8 to skill. That’s the go-to option when you’re trapped under something skillfull, strong, and/or heavy. In effect, you’ll likely be crit-fishing for a “multiplies CP by X” result . . . and again, this is likely correct.

The Most Important Point

Lastly: the most important points you will spend when creating a ground fighter who is interested in takedowns, throws, and lockouts is going to be buying off the Ground Fighting penalties for posture. The -4 to attacks, -3 to defenses you take by being prone is absolutely crippling at moderate point totals, and buying it off to where you are minimally impacted (even going so far as to buy Technique Mastery to totally buy off all penalties) is really crucial.

The relative disparity in “knows Ground Fighting” and “doesn’t know Ground Fighting” is really dominating in fights that go to the ground – this is true in realty as well. It’s not that a guy can’t get stuff done on the ground: He can. But he’ll have to make extensive use of All-Out Attack (Determined) and/or Telegraphic Attack to do it.

Parting Shot

Still quite pleased with the emergent behavior coming out of the rules, and Technical Grappling is a good addition to GURPS. (Everyone go buy it! I want to do more for SJG, and nothing says “let him write more” than good sales.). There are a few places where we can make it even easier, and I’ll get right on that.

We ended last game with the weather finally clearing enough for us to head north to the Frozen Tower (probably of Doom!).  We are starting to – perhaps – approach the pole when a strange blue glow is seen on the horizon. It dominates the dark sky like the Luxor.

It’s cold. Damn cold. -100F/-73C cold.

The shaft of light emanates from a hexagonal tower, some 100m tall, whose top crackles with blue energy, a raging storm swirling above the light.

GM: The winds are SCREAMING here. This is the windiest wind that a wind ever did wind.

A shattered causeway leads from the shore of the frozen lake to a hexagonal entrace on ther northern face of the tower. It begs us (metaphorically) to venture on . . . and die.

Or maybe I’m just reading too much into this. Nope:

Everyone makes out skeletons of various creatures (including humanoids) slowly moving aimlessly in the lake around the tower.

Cadmus wonders out loud if this place feels quite as evil as the last black basalt thing we encountered, and he can feel the nasty emanating from the lake from the low hill you guys are scouting from.

Yep. Evil. Damn evil.

We also decide that this is in fact the Creepy Black Tower by the Lake, but not the Nameless Spires, which are at the north pole and well, “spires,” not “spire with vertical maglite.”

Cadmus prays for guidance, but receives none.

Cadmus: “Pharasma ignored me. So either we’re doing the right thing, or too stupid to keep living and she’ll see us Real Soon.”

Thumvar: “Or you at least.”

Cadmus: “Fair point.”

Shiba bats an eye at this weird foreign pagan reassurance, but only an eye. “Care to wager on that, Cadmus-sempai?”

Cadmus: “Absolutely. 100 silver says we make it halfway up and then encounter some Unspeakable terror, which is just a warm-up for the challenge we face extinguishing that light source.”

Jaded pros, we are.

We decide sneakitude is the best course, and start up the causeway. The Big Clunky Warriors make their rolls by 3 and 5. The Mystic Knight by 1, and the Scout is embarrassed by only making her roll by 3.

GM: You manage to sneak across the cracked and ruined causeway all the way up to the hexagonal portal leading into the black tower. Peeking inside, you see windblown snow in all the corners of the roughly trapezoidal chamber inside. Identical hexagonal openings exit the room to the right, left, and straight ahead. A strong wind blows from the portal ahead of you, but overall the wind is mercifully damped compared to outside.

Accidentally, a few wights are revealed by a vision layer error:

Cadmus: Oh, look. The Wight Stuff.

GM: It’s about 10 yards up and featureless.

GM: Wight? What wight?

Thumvar: or Thumvar on the left, Shiba on the right since that is how we are now?

Cadmus: Huh. Coulda sworn I saw the Wight

Thumvar: several

Cadmus: Well, they’ll be a Wight to Remember, then

GM: You do see some sort of crystaline structure poking out of the snow drift to the left and ahead.

Cadmus: Remember, we don’t talk about Wight Club

Looking around the area, the door to the left opens on a room dotted in pale white mushrooms sticking out of drifts of windblown snow, while a very large (and probably carnivorous) plant dominates the corner of the right-hand room. It’s about 7 yards tall, bulbous protusions that glow with gentle white light along it’s main stalk.

Feed me, Seymour. Wonderful.

It’s root system sprawls across most of the room. It’s maw is currently pointing up towards the cieling, and it’s gently twisting back and forth as if it’s dancing to some music only it can hear.

GM: Staver, you recognize the mushrooms in the other room as some weird arctic variant of a fairly common northern mushroom.

Staver: Does it eat people or spew toxic spores?

GM: You’re not sure what they’re feeding off of, really, and the normal ones are brown, not white, but you’re pretty sure they’re descended from that.

Cadmus responds to Shiba’s suggestion of killing the plant from a distance with “I have five vials of alchemist’s fire.” He likes that plan. He likes the part where Staver suggests using his alchemist’s fire arrows even better.

Staver takes some time to study the plant, and tells us more bad news:

GM: You are pretty sure that’s an exotic plant normally found in jungles far to the south. Known as a “Moonflower” They can emit bursts of blinding light, are moderately mobile on their root structure, and like to swallow SM0 things whole. It is very weird to find one that is a) white, and b) thriving (apparently) in the arctic.

Cadmus: While I have never heard of an undead carnivorous plant, I feel we have found one. Deduction, not divination.

Naturally, our conversation is loud enough that the plant hears us. Sigh.

GM: The moonflower pauses in it’s strange dance, and the head turns towards the door all you guys are standing in.

Shiba reacts as he should, dropping his bodkin arrow, replacing it with a cutting arrow, and Aims at the Moonflower. Staver launches two flaming arrows at the Moonflower, and scores two hits, both of which suffer from the conversion to 1/2 damage for homogeneous creatures, but also both set it on fire.

As the warriors move up to cover the archers, the Moonflower slithers forward a bit . . . and emits a blinding flash of light. One of the light-emitting bulbous things on the stalk is now dark, and we find ourselves facing a HT-5 roll to see. We all fail, three spend bonus points to not be blind, but we rapidly realize that’s four more to go. Thumvar can do that; the rest of us can’t. And HT-5 is a lot. Staver, of course, didn’t have to roll at all, having actually looked purposefully away from the flashbulbs of doom after he loosed his arrows.

GM:Looking behind you, you see withered corpses sit up out of some of the snow drifts in the room you’re in. Two angular black things covered in chitinous armor plate with two legs and four arms ending in heavy claws step through the portal back outside. And you see a faint disturbance in the air in between you guys and the open portal to the room with all the mushrooms.

Just awesome.

GM: Oh, the scary black things seem to be dripping a black slime from every part of them, which sizzles when it hits the ground inside the tower. Thought that might be information you’d like to have.

Even better. It’s like he’s trying to kill us or something.

Staver Fast-Draws two flaming arrows, and shoots both at a scary black thing, which try and fail to dodge out of the way. 10 (2) imp and 6 (2) imp plus 3 and 4 burning . . . the first arrow sinks through an armor plate and burst into flame like a flaming arrow should, the second is much less effective, but still penetrates.

They start towards the group, moving awkwardly on all six limbs and leaving a small trail of hissing black slime behind them.

The two Scary Black Things move towards us at Move 4, which isn’t too scary for now. Could change. Maybe they’re holding back. That would suck.

Thumvar shifts around to protect our flank, tosses his sword in the air like a boss, Fast-Draws an axe and chucks it at a Scary Black Thing, and catches the sword. He hits for 11 cut with the silver-coated hatchet . . . which “just barely” lodges in his armored plates.


Shiba casts a large Grease spell to create a bit of a denied zone around us, keeping the inner three hexes open so we can have footing.

The frost wights (GM: Like normal wights, but waaayyyy cooler!) advance at a sprint (Move 7) right through the greased zone, and one of them is in our inner circle darn quick. The other crit fails his balance roll and falls flat on his back, stunned (unusual for undead).

Cadmus steps into the middle of the circle of undead, and casts Smite. Unfortunately, Staver, a part-Infernal, takes the highest damage. Coudla sworn that he was less affected than that . . . but also the Smite is strangely muted, as the Evil Temple gives the beasties DR 5. OK, Shrivener is on the menu tonight.

Staver puts himself out, and the Bad Guys (SBTs) try and advance on us through the Grease. They both fall over.

Thumvar Rapid Strikes with his broadsword, but it’s parried by the Frost Wight despite the -2 Deceptive Attack; he’s not that good, but he got lucky. Shiba regains his vision, and strikes twice at the wight, the second strike biting deep (14 cut).

The wights go before Cadmus, and one closes to the Grease circle. The wight Shiba hit returns the favor with two quick blows, while the fallen wight critically fails his roll to get up, slams his head into the ground with a loud CRACK!, and his head rolls away from his body. First “own goal” of any game I’ve ever played. Shiba easily blocks and parries the two blows directed at him. He shouts “legacies of a more civilized age!” and golden ideograms flow down the sword, turning it into an annihilating weapon. The wight loses his arm about mid-forearm. Which is quite traditional, as we all know.

The third Frost Wight also crit-fails his DX check as he goes across the grease, and falls and hurts himself.

Cadmus, a bit tired of all the other guys doing the cool stuff, invokes Righteous Fury, receiving a +5 boost to ST, +4 to DX, and +6 to HT. Yow. He is, for the next 3d seconds, a 530-point character. He needs (!) to get at the Scary Black Things, as he now does 4d+1(2) cut with his axe.

Staver fast-draws two bodkins into SBT2, crits the F-D roll, and crits again on the first arrow shot, merely hits the second. SBT’s right leg is crippled. SBT has two legs and four arms, so this is a good thing.

Thumvar’s up, and is forced to spend a destiny point to turn a miss into a hit, and one-armed Wight Skywalker does not dodge. He takes 15 (2) cut, and crumples to the ground, unmoving.

This frees Shiba to advance on SBT2, with telegraphed rapid strikes for 8 cut and 14 cut, which fails to damage it (!).

Frost Wight 4 leaps at Shiba, crossing the greased spell area to claw at him, and Shiba blocks successfully.

Cadmus moves through his friends, striking at FW4 on his way to hit SBT1. He carves a large chunk out of the frost wraith as he passes, and due to the slippery surface and overall position on SBT1, nails him too. 15(2) cut on FW1, and 12(2) cut on SBT1, but I suspect the Scary Black Things have DR15-20, which probably means “not much of a wound!”

Nope: Your axe sinks deep into it’s armored plates. Black slime oozes out around the wound with a muted sizzle that echoes with faint screams.

The Moonflower closes in.

We started late, so we ended there . . . 

A great session by +Nathan Joy , +Mark Langsdorf , +Syndaryl , and +Theodore Briggs

I did a practice run with some selfless volunteers last night using Hangouts On Air.

Overall, I was pleased enough that I’ll use it for my upcoming video panel discussion this weekend.

I do have some questions, though, and if there are users out there with more experience at this than I have who can answer, that would very much help me.

* Is there a way to restart a broadcast once you stop? Once I clicked “End Broadcast” to stop recording, it seems the only way to restart and capture another “segment” is to go into the open screen, re-invite everyone (and ensure they’re off the previous call), and start all over again.

* Is there a way to NOT broadcast this to the entire planet? I guess I don’t mind, but I’d really like to capture the video, edit it on my own, and then release it into the wild.

* Hangouts “Lower Third.” It works great for me, but occasionally not for others. Does it always work if you use Chrome? Are there extensions or applications that interfere with it? Will it work with any browser? Having the name and affiliation of each speaker on the screen as they talk is a great help to understanding.

* For moderation purposes . . .is there a good way, or any way, to “recognize” a speaker so that everyone knows who “has the ball,” so to speak? Would be quite useful since there will be as many as eight people potentially chatting at once!

Can’t wait to see how this works out, and I hope it’s at least as good as the interview I did with +Sean Punch. But feeling a little nervous at the number of things that could go wrong that don’t involve the moderator acting like an ass.

In +Christian Blouin‘s campaign they’re using Technical Grappling (which is now over 250 sales!) and this seems to lead to more attempts to do grappling-related things. I consider this a win.

One thing that came up during play was Drolf, +Justin Aquino‘s character whom I was driving for the day, was going to run by an orc, dumping him onto the ground as he did.

We debated between Hook and Sweep very briefly, but were all inclined to sweep. Still, I’ve been thinking about sweeps vs. takedowns (in TG, Force Posture Change) a bit.

Let’s step on to the Grappling Mat for some guidance:


Skill-3, Wrestling at -4 was added as a “new basic attack.”

You roll to hit with Sweep, and if successful, you roll a Quick Contest Sweep or Trained ST vs his own Trained ST, DX, Acrobatics, or best grappling skill.

If you hit, he fails to defend, and you win the contest, he falls prone. You can’t change your posture to get bonuses.

The rules are the same if you start from a grapple, but you still can’t leverage posture changes. A grapple isn’t required, though, and if you sweep someone from a grapple, the assumption is you may not retain CP (p. 19 in the Takedown Table).

Force Posture Change/Takedown

A takedown in this manner requires a grapple. It’s also a contest that is basically even up: both parties’ Trained ST, DX, or best unarmed grappling skill. However, you take penalties based on what you want to do to them, and what you do.

Throw him prone, but stay standing yourself? You’re at -4, similar to a Sweep with Wrestling. Go all the way down with him, going prone yourself? You’re even-up.

You can maintain CP during this move unless you run into impossible positions (p. 11).

Parting Shot

This isn’t profound, but it drives tactics and intent. You do FPC when you want to retain a grapple, doubly so if you don’t mind (or actively wish) to drop with him.

You do a sweep when you want to remain standing, and want to put your foe on the ground without grappling him first.

If you have high Trained ST as your forte, you’ll roll against that in both contests, so you’d only do FPC if you really want to (a) retain CP or (b) change posture with your foe. By the way, the easiest way to retain CP while remaining standing is to ensure you have a grapple of a limb – this is commonly taught in my HRD class, and you can maintain that grapple from standing or (more likely) a crouch position.

Sweeps are really sweet when moving through a target, or if you really need that mobility. The fact that they default from weapon skill at -3 also means for warriors that have sky-high melee weapon skills (and maybe ST) but not a lot of unarmed grappling oomph they can put a guy on the ground at a decent clip. A DF character with ST 14 and (say) Melee Weapon at 20 will Sweep at 17 and have a Trained ST of 15 which isn’t too shabby.

Joined +Christian Blouin+Jason Woollard , +Arne Jamtgaard , +Paul Stefko , and Gordon for my first session of his Dwarf-based campaign.

It started in media res, with Drolf, my borrowed PC-turned-NPC-turned-PC literally teetering on the edge of a 30m drop, having been pushed there by an enormous angry tree creature: a Huorn. Something that’s not an Ent. But big, mad, and leafy.

Drolf has a penchant, apparently, for complex plans and actions, but in this case, my first action was simply to get the heck out of Dodge. All-Out Dodge, actually, to get away from the ledge.

After that, the Wizard being wrestled (using Technical Grappling, no less!) by both arms and legs of a particularly angry dwarf met a sudden and violent end, as said dwarf let go with one hand, fast-drew a knife, and did a vitals strike for max damage (21 HP), ending the wizard’s career. Christian mourned for his Big Bad Evil Guy, who apparently left us too soon.

After that, we spent a lot of time dodging tree limbs performing sweep maneuvers, and generally hacked the thing to death.

We then rested for a short bit – one of our number had been pretty nastily impaled (and flung around by said impaling branch), and we were all a bit winded. Lots of Feverish Defenses, spending FP to avoid a pretty massive whomping willow.

After that, we made our way down the one exit, and got the drop on what we later found was an orc nest. We loosed a few arrows at the one-eyed guard with a crappy shortbow, and Drolf, who has Move 8 and is lightly encumbered (!), sprinted past him, doing a Sweep as he went by, hopefully leaving him easy meat for my companions.

Cowardly scum chose not to stand and fight, and rolled off the raised platform we were on.

We ended there. I think we’ll play one more session with these NPCs, giving the newbies time to come up with replacement characters. Gives me about a month.


I got to see my rules used by someone else in play, and they seemed to be pretty easy to use, and provide good color and fun. Releasing a hand was easy, the CP lost required a simple table look-up, and play moved on.

Otherwise, this was a great intro session. A foe that you just couldn’t use a lot of defensive options on, and who was more or less a giant pile of HP. The wizard would have been tougher, I suspect, save for that ‘getting impaled by a knife’ thing.

Looking forward to next game!

And here’s +Christian Blouin‘s game summary: K13 – I’m a lumberjack and I’m OK…

Yay, I get to play in another GURPS campaign!

I’ll be joining +Christian Blouin and diverse others in his Reclaiming Khazad-dum campaign as of tonight.

I’m very excited. It’s another fantasy-style campaign, but this one is pure GURPS (Tolkien based) rather than Golarion with GURPS. So we’ll see what flavor is there.

Also, this group has decided to play using the Technical Grappling rules, and that will be fantastic to see how my rules are used in play. That being said, as the author, I sent this note to the group:

One quick note to the group, since I understand you (might be?) using the Technical Grappling rules. I will answer questions and I will offer opinions ONLY IF ASKED. Otherwise, it’s Christian’s game, and his word is the last one and the only one. Rule Zero.

I take this seriously, since my role is not to nitpick or play rules guy. It’s to play a Dwarf.

A Dwarf with -121 points of Disads. Holy Buckets. I’ll be borrowing a PC-turned-NPC for tonight’s session. I’m not sure how much they’ll affect play, though:
  • Curious (12)
  • Duty, Hazardous (12)
  • Dependents (Relatives, Freq-6) 
  • Dwarven Crafts Ineptitude
  • Enemies (Large Group of Less Powerful Individuals – The Human Kingdom he harrassed) (Freq-6)
  • Intollerance (Non-Dwarves)
  • Selfish (12)
  • Secret (No Dwarven Talent; Embarrassing, 6)
  • Obsession (start his own line and dynasty)
  • Reputation -4 Monster(x2/3 everone but dwarves; automatic recognition)
  • Workaholic
We’ll see. It’s still a lot of Disads to remember. Looking forward to the test drive. It’ll also be fun to see how Roll20 and GURPS combine.

In my interview with +Sean Punch, he threw down a challenge (or that’s how I took it) to have a panel of fellow authors on with him.

I took him up on that, and arranged for as many as seven authors – those who appear most frequently in Pyramid – to appear with me, discussing Pyramid magazine and writing for it.

Stay tuned! I hope to have the interview completed at the end of the week, then I’ll get it edited, transcribed, and published ASAP. That’s a bit of work, but hopefully I’ll have it ready by month’s end.

If these continue to be as popular as Sean’s (nearly twice the hits of my next-most-popular post!), I will try and do one of these per month.

I wonder if +Fred Hicks is available to talk about FATE . . .

A while back I promised to go through the fight scene between Natasha Romanov (Black Widow) and a small army of mook guards from Iron Man 2, using Technical Grappling. Not a bad topic for my 200th post since Dec 26, 2012!

The key fight takes place in about a minute, from roughly 0:20 in the clip until Lady Scarlett finishes off the last mook at 1:22.

Here’s how I break down the action, with my initial impressions of what happens. I will break down the bits into scenes, each described in detail later on. Those sections are referenced in bold. While suggestions are made for mechanics in my notes on the clip, I may revisit them in the details, so withhold judgement until the end!

Breakdown of the Clip

0:20 – Happy punches a guard in the face. They start to fight

0:22 – Natasha throws a pair of electrostunner discs and tases another guard (Taser Strike)

0:31 – Happy’s guard gets tired of getting hit, and starts to fight back. A lot.

0:36 – Natasha does an Acrobatic attack, with a double-leg grapple of the neck, and a “Kiss the floor” (Double-leg Madness)

0:41 – Natasha slides through the legs of her next victim, maybe an Evade and Attack? She moves through the hex, probably doing a Pressure Point attack to cause pain in the guard’s leg. She poses. (Slip and Spin)

0:43 – Here comes the double-leg grapple of the neck again. This is clearly a Signature Move. She uses an Acrobatic Attack to vault off the first guard’s back, hits the running guy with the double leg grapple, and again uses her weight to throw her victim to the ground, where he’s unconscious. Technically, this might be an Offensive Judo Throw. Grab and Smash works best. (Vaulting to Victory)

0:50 – Happy is experiencing the NPC version of grab and smash. He’s not Happy anymore.

0:55 – Natasha uses two flash/smoke distraction devices to disorient two guards. She slides to seated position and uses Low Fighting or Ground Fighting to throw a sweeping kick to guard two. He crit fails  his defense roll, rolls an 8, and knocks himself out. She climbs up the other guard and kicks him in the face. (Boot to the Face)

What follows here is the clear “holy crap!” moment of the scene, as she takes on and defeats three foes at once. 

0:59. She readies a garotte.

1:00. She uses the garotte to perform a two-handed grabbing parry against the guard’s baton strike to the head, and immediately passes control of one end of the weapon to her other hand. She employs a stomp kick to the inside of his left knee (1:01), clears the garotte, punches him in the face and stomach (1:02), grapples the neck and passes control to her left hand (1:03), Dodges an attack (1:04) and performs a grabbing parry with the garotte, jumps into the air and does a grab and smash on him, at the same time as a Force Posture Change/G&S on the other guy with the extendable garotte. (Triple Threat)

1:08 – the guard takes two seconds to change posture from prone to standing, while readying a can of mace. Natasha slips inside on a grabbing parry, changing position to the flank or rear and grabbing the back (1:10). She then does her two-legged grapple of the neck at 1:11, throws him off balance while switching legs for arms at 1:12, and executes a Judo Throw for injury at 1:13. (Slow Learner)

1:14. The guard does an all-out attack with another can of mace. Natasha responds with a Grabbing parry to classic arm lock and relieves him of his mace by pain compliance (1:15) with two hands, and a spinning elbow strike to the jaw (1:16) (she relinquishes the lock), and a spinning kick to the head for a finish at 1:17. (Disarm Lock and That Arm Lock)

She strolls away, and another guard is maced in the face, caught by surprise, at 1:22.

1:27 – Happy pulls a Mike Tyson and finally wins his fight with an All-Out Attack to the jaw at 1:33

About Miss Romanov

Natasha Romanoff is no mere normal. She’s a recipient of the Russian version of the Super Soldier Serum according to this link in Wiki, and the writeup simply screams “really high stats” to me. She probably has DX on the order of 18-20, maybe more. She’s probably been trained to DX+7 or DX+10 in several styles of martial arts. As is typical for comic books, the power list is mixed, but generally agree that she probably has Enhanced Time Sense, definitely Combat Reflexes if not ETS, and her DX, IQ, and HT are all very high. Not entirely sure about ST, but I need to put something down. On the low end, she’s about 125-lbs and a world-class gymnast and ballerina. Doing a bit of digging, it seems that female gymnasts can often throw down bench press on the order of 2x their (usually slight) body weight, and Natasha has all that Super Serum to think about. She could be anywhere from ST 13 to ST 16 without really blinking at it. Let’s call it ST 15 for now, and with that DX+10 Wrestling for +5 to Trained ST, she’s looking at Trained ST 20, DX 20, Wrestling-30. Not to mention buttloads of Judo, Karate, and Boxing. Her low mass (based on ST = HP = 2 * cube root of weight in lbs) is only the equivalent of ST 10, so Sumo would be a bad choice. She probably has high ranks in Brawling too. Definitely Trained by a Master, and possibly one or more specialties of WM, though with skills as high as hers, she won’t need it. Based on the number of moves she does in any given turn, it’s nearly certain she has at least one, if not two, Extra Attacks.

The overall point here is that she was born in 1941, trained as a spy, sniper, and martial artist for 70+ years while remaining young, and weaned on Russian Super-Soldier formula. High stats and skills are what she does. That means she’s going to have the skill to do a lot of stuff in one turn if she wants, to the point that I probably won’t often note the final skills she’s rolling against. She’s that good.

One last point to those who might object: even a DF character, such as a Knight or Martial Artist, can start the game with skills in the 18-20 range (higher if you go nuts). Natasha is more like a Monster Hunters 400-pointer, and by jiggering around with a Warrior template, you can easily put all sorts of hand-to-hand goodness in multiple skills into the DX+4 and DX+7 level. Just going to town on what she should have, she’s probably a 1,000-point character using Wildcard! skills to cover the breadth of her expertise. And that’s without giving her lots of 20s in stats.

Taser Strike

Tasers Suck. Twice.

This one’s easy. She walks by the guard who is distracted by Happy starting his fistfight, and tosses two stunners which cause electromuscular disruption (High Tech, p. 89; p. B432). He fails one or both of the HT-5 rolls to resist and falls to the ground, paralyzed. She moves on.

Double-leg Madness

Vaulting for Double-Leg Neck Grapple

Natasha runs the prerequisite distance and does an Acrobatic Attack, using the Vaulting and Diving rules (Martial Arts, p. 107) to clear the low cart. This acrobatic double-leg grapple is something she uses two or three times in this fight sequence alone, so we’ll build it as a Technique that ignores the skill cap of 9. She’ll roll Acrobatics-2 to clear that cart, and then a monster penalty to her grappling skill for an Acrobatic Attack (-6), that ignores the skill cap (-1), targets the neck with a grapple (-3) with the legs (-2), for a whopping Skill-12. I’m quite sure she’s not using this from default, but if she has Skill-26 she can pull this off 90% of the time even without buying it up. I won’t say she’s bought it up all the way to full skill, but even if she’s got it to Skill-6, she’ll be able to throw this with some major Deceptive Attack action attached.

So we’ve identified an Acrobatic Double-Leg Grapple as one of her signature moves.

So she grapples him by the neck and rolls vs. a likely Trained ST 21 (ST 15 with both legs is ST 18, and Judo at DX+10 gives +3) for Control Points. This is certainly a cinematic campaign, but even so, she rolls 2d for CP (average of 7 CP) and doubles that because she’s got TbaM and she’s Black Widow, scoring 14 CP, imparting -7 to her foe’s ST and DX. Even if he’s a decent foe, ST 14 and DX 12 as a high-end guard, he’s now ST 7 and DX 5, entering the realm of “sucks rocks.”

We can resolve the finishing move as a Judo Throw for injury (Martial Arts, p. 75), with Black Widow’s Judo vs. her foe’s ST 7, DX 5, or highest grappling skill, which is unlikely more than 9. She need not even spend CP. She’ll roll at Judo-8 for the attack (targeting the skull, at -1 for a damage throw), but since she’s adding her weight to the throw and landing crawling, picks up an extra +2. 

She definitely does all of this stuff in one move, so she’s Rapid Striking for -6 to both as well.

Out-of-sequence Double-Leg Signature Move

Net: Acrobatics roll at -2 to clear the cart (the easiest part of all this); Acrobatic Double-Leg Neck Grapple at -6 beyond whatever her skill is for Rapid Strike, and a Judo Throw for injury at Judo-12 to combine the weight change, Judo throw to the skull, and rapid strike.

Now, it’s possible that the takedown is a variant on a Grab and Smash, but canonically, this can’t be done on a standing foe by smashing their head to the ground. Still, what it would be if you wanted to do it this way is a Force Posture Change (-4 for taking him down, +2 for landing crawling, net of -2) to get him down combined with an attack to the skull at full penalties. That’s DX, Brawling, or Wrestling as the base, -7 for targeting the skull. You’l do thrust crush damage plus whatever CP you choose to spend (!!) to the skull. Note that this two-move combo is also a Rapid Strike.

If Black Widow has Extra Attack (one or more), this would take some of the gigantic penalties accrued and limit them. She probably has at least that, and so between a Rapid Strike, Extra Attack, and maybe even an All-Out Attack (Double), she can probably spread all of this stuff over one turn fairly easily.

Note also that in many of these moves, she ends not grappling the guy at all, meaning that somewhere along the line she spent all of her usually-massive tally of CP to really make these guys look like idiots, or perhaps add injury to the throws, or lower the location penalty of striking the skull from the throw. Probably that last one.

Slip and Spin

Evade and Pressure Point Leg Strike

I’ll call this one an interesting combination of Evade (p. B368) to move through his hex, paired with a Pressure Points strike to the lower leg, total of Karate-4, then a Pressure Points vs. HT roll. The Evade vs. a standing foe is at -5.

The fact that the guy is still there a few seconds later for Black Widow to use the same Acrobatic Attack as the previous fight means she applied lasting crippling pain. Already handled by the GURPS rules, so go +Sean Punch and +Peter V. Dell’Orto!

Vaulting to Victory

Acrobatic Double-Leg Neck Grapple

This quick scene is a near-mimic of the previous one. She uses her Acrobatic Double-Leg Neck Grapple again, this time over two turns – there’s a notable break between the grapple and the takedown. So first turn is the vault over the guy and the grapple; the second turn is the leg-based offensive Judo Throw, this time landing standing, and using the CP spend to cancel out the penalties for the skull location. 

Boot to the Face

After tossing a few flash-bang/smoke grenades to render both foes stunned (like she needs that, but “fight fair” is an oxymoron), she does a sweeping kick to the first guy’s leg. She also spends a few points to cause him to crit fail his defense roll, where he knocks himself out. This is part and parcel of treating mooks as scenery, from Impulse Buys, p. 6 – and is especially appropriate for this sort of fight.

She then dispatches the other guard with a kick to the face, and I’d call the “I walk up the guy’s leg” simply an application of Deceptive Attack. She’s doing something like 1d+3 damage with that kick, enough for a Major Wound to the Face, inducing an HT-5 roll to the mook, who has about a 85% chance of failing. Which he does.

Triple Threat

The most exciting part of the fight, and the most complicated to adjudicate. Also with weapons!

First, Natasha readies her handy-dandy extendable garotte using a Defensive Grip. It’s a flexible melee weapon (see TG, p. 14-15) with the neat trick of being extensible, and can grapple at a reach limited by its length (or more properly, half  its length).

Weapon Parry from Defensive Grip

The first guy does a classic overhand attack to the head. Natasha uses the garotte to do a Grabbing Parry. She’s +1 for the Defensive Grip, using Judo – and so can parry unpenalized vs. armed attackers, but still accepting -4 to parry the limbs of an attacker with a Reach 1 weapon. She also slips into close combat using Judo while she does this, for a net +1. So, all in all, she’s parrying at -4, not bad, really. In a realistic game, the fact that she’s parrying a swung weapon with Judo would make her Parry at -7.

When she makes her parry, she inflicts CP based on half her ST (call it ST 7), and we’ll slap on the bonus for +1 per die for the flexible weapon, so she’s at 1d-2 CP for the parry . . . but doubled because of the cinematic switch. That is 2d-4, so an upper bound of 8 CP, and an expectation of about 3 CP. Relative to Natasha’s other stuff, this isn’t a lot. She knows this. 

Pressure Point strike to knee

She seems to use something like Pass Limb (or hell, maybe just a DX roll) to transfer both ends of the garotte to her left hand, releasing her right. It’s hard to tell without frame-by-frame, but it’s also possible she’s just using the weapon in a Defensive Grip while slipping in for the parry using Judo. That’s a net of Parry+2 using the normal rules. She then does a three-move kick to the knee, punch to the face, and punch to the chest, possibly a Pressure Points strike (TG, p. 33), since he spends his next turn suffering from enough pain that he just stands there. 

Neck grapple with flexible weapon

She reacquires her garotte, and grapples her paralyzed foe around the neck with it, this time using her best unarmed grappling skill, and likely doing something like 2d+3 (doubled!) control points. 

She dodges a Move and Attack punch from the second guard, and buys a critical success, forcing him to roll on the Unarmed Crit Miss table; he continues past her and falls down.

Judo Throw Rapid Strike!

She does a Grabbing Judo Parry against the punch from the third guard, scores a few CP, and then follows up with a really awesome move. She improves her grapple on the third guard’s arm, and does a Rapid Strike Judo Throw for injury on both of them. Both are offensive throws and Contests of Skill, so she spends CP liberally to make them go down, go down hard, and stay down. She can do both because she retained the grapple from the lanyard on the first guy, and has lots of CP from the arm grapple on the third.

Slow Learner

Ah, poor second guard. He fails to learn from the giant pile of unconscious buddies twitching around him. He Readies a can of mace while changing posture from prone to standing over the requisite two-second period.

Really? A can of mace? How about an actual mace? Might at least have looked threatening. Instead, doing so, for all intents and purposes, seems to merely provoke what looks very much like an Attack of Opportunity. Actually, he probably does a Wait, and will spray her if she gets into range.

Slip, Position, Grabbing Parry

She charges in anyway, triggering his Wait, and she slips inside using a grabbing parry of the torso. She persuades her GM that she should be able to use the stepping from a retreat as the movement that allows a Change Position maneuver (TG, p. 35) and accepts the -2 to her Grabbing Parry that getting into her foe’s side arc implies. 

Judo Throw

On her own turn, she completes her move by doing another Acrobatic Double-Leg Neck Grapple, also accepting -4 to slip from the side to the rear arc. She probably does enough CP (2d doubled) that poor slow learner’s turn is spent going “Wha? How? Who? Ow!” due to the active control penalties alone. 

Her next turn, she attacks with her arms and releases her legs, and then does another Judo Throw for injury, putting this guy out.

Disarm Lock and That Arm

Grabs can of mace
Judo Grabbing Parry+Lock

Move and Attack must be part of this private security company’s standard training protocol, because here comes another one. At least this guy had his weapon out first.

To no avail. Natasha does a classic grabbing parry, followed immediately by an Arm Lock roll while acquiring the weak side arc of her foe. Note that the extended arm bar and flipping up into the standing shoulder lock are probably not two moves, though it could be modeled as increasing the CP on an already-locked joint, but more importantly, applying pain. She spends enough CP on that arm lock to reduce the guard’s Grip CP to zero and grabs the can of mace herself. A spinning elbow to the face stuns him, and a spinning kick to the skull finishes him off.

Parting Shot

This fight was a classic one-on-many fight where the heroine makes otherwise competent individuals look silly by dint of sheer awesomeness. The double-the-CP switch does this, making grapples almost comically effective. The cinematic tendency of the mooks to Just Stand There while the heroine goes to town on them is probably best represented by the huge CP totals making die rolls nearly pointless – from the viewer’s angle, “he just stood there,” but game mechanically, he probably tried to do something and failed.

The only thing I wonder about is that most of Black Widow’s takedowns – all but the last one where she  switches arms for legs so she can land kneeling – look more like Force Posture Changes plus Kiss The Floor to me than Judo Throw. But the fact that every one of these is basically an FPC for injury, requiring a Rapid Strike, while Judo allows this in one move with an offensive throw for injury, makes me think this is the right call. Judo is, after all, a Hard skill, and being able to do this is appropriate.

I hope this breakdown, even though I didn’t have a full character sheet and numbers for Natasha and all the mooks, helps show how you’d do TG in a cinematic beat-down.

Now go buy the book already!

Thanks to Marvel for making this HD-quality clip available on YouTube. All images are Copyright to them, and used with the intent to show how awesome their movie, the character, and possibly my book are. Two of those things are likely cooler than the other. 

Over on the SJG Forums, I had a very productive interchange with Gef, a poster who wanted to know more about how grappling works using Technical Grappling, and asked for an introductory paragraph something like this:

Grappling generally consists of an attack to establish a hold (which need not be an actual grasp), with a roll analogous to a damage roll (and based on thrust damage) to establish how good a grip the grappler achieves, expressed as Control Points. These Control Points do two things: First, they impose a penalty on the target’s ST and DX, and second, they may be spent to cause damage or pain, or to force an opponent into an unfavorable position. Unlike damage, Control Points persist until spent, continuing to penalize ST and DX, unless modified by the action of the attacker (attempting to strengthen his grip) or his target (attempting to break free).


Well, it’s not errata, and that information is covered in various places in the book. But . . . there’s merit to what he says, and so, here’s a breakdown in simple terms
Step One: Get a Grip

The first thing you do before you even use the rules in TG is you have to attack someone with a grappling skill and hit. This is an attack, using DX, Judo, Sumo Wrestling, or Wrestling. You can also use Armed Grapple, a technique that defaults to any appropriate melee weapon skill-2. Some weapons such as lariats or (I think) nets attack to entangle at full skill.

This can be done with one hand or two, and that’s a change or clarification from the rules in the Basic Set and Martial Arts, where most grapples are presumed to use two hands. The impact of that change is felt when you roll for Control Points in Step Two.
A grappling attack is a bog-standard GURPS attack, which may be blocked, parried, or dodged. Make note, though, that if your thought is to not be touched at all by your foe, you must dodge. Everything else assumes some contact.
Usually, but not always, you must step into Close Combat to achieve that first grapple. There are exceptions, though – most often when someone’s doing a reach-based attack and you grapple the weapon or limb. 
Step Two: Roll for Control

Once you grab someone, you will immediately roll for Control Points. This replaces the automatic -4 to DX with a tally of points that impart penalties to DX and ST based on how many you accumulate.
The area(s) grappled suffer full penalties, and other body parts suffer reduced penalties. If you grapple multiple areas, there’s a way to figure out how all that grabbing stacks up. This is especially important for things like a proper arm bar (a two-handed grapple of an arm, plus one leg grappling the neck, and the other grappling the torso!) or getting dogpiled by a gaggle of goblins.

Once you have these points, your foe will be impaired to some degree. Grapples of the torso will impact nearly all combat skill use, applying full penalties to your actions. This might not be entirely clear from the rules, because the need to leverage your core is such a fundamental assumption for me after years of martial arts training that it never occurred to me to mention it explicitly at the time. Nor any of the playtesters. 
Oh, it’s there: 

Referred Control and Whole-Body Actions: Always use the most severe penalty from any body part involved in an action. Using both arms or both legs always involves the torso, so apply the harshest penalty from any of those locations. For skill use, apply the worst of the whole body penalty or that of any limb used to perform the skill.

Note that this paragraph has been changed since my original post, and I’ve updated it. It was clarified as a drive-by making an errata to this section on pp. 5-6, and I took the opportunity to clarify that yeah, skill use suffers the worst of the whole-body penalty or a penalty to a grabbed limb. Much nastier and more believable that way.

Step Three: Do More Stuff

Once you have that initial grapple, you have a choice. You can try and do something fancy with it, or you can do moar grapple! You can grapple again, to rack up more Control Points and improve your situation. This is an attack, but this time, the rules for fighting in Close Combat apply. Your foe will have a harder time using Block, for instance. He’s also penalized by whatever control you have achieved, and his movement and dodge are extra-hampered.

You can do all sorts of stuff with this, including shifting grapples around, or even trying to trap his limbs under yours, good for representing a good side mount or triangle choke.

In any case, once you have that grapple, you can then start to do techniques with it. Most of those are Quick Contests of a combat skill, DX, or Trained ST (ST with a bonus like that given for Wrestling, but bigger if you’re more skilled) vs. the defender’s best of several options, depending on the technique. This can be DX, ST, a combat skill, even Acrobatics or Breakfall, and sometimes, HT.

If you’re rolling vs. HT, you’re probably rolling to not get injured. One neat trick, though, is that to have a big injury, you must have lots of Control in most moves. Your injury is limited by the CP you have, and you must spend those CP when causing injury. Damage by delayed gratification.

The most common one for Wrestlers or Sumo Wrestlers (and some Judo and weapon guys too) will be the generalized version of Takedown (p. B370), now called Force Posture Change.

When doing grappling Contests, you may spend your Control Points to make it harder for your foe to succeed in his roll. You may not spend them to make your own grappling skills better, and this is important. Your skill, after penalties, matters. You have to perform some moves correctly and beat your foe’s ability to resist in order for them to work. Others, you just have to win the contest.

It’s really not as complicated as it may sound.

Step Four: Finish Him!

The last step(s) are really just situation dependent. Do you want to kill your foe? Cripple him? Does the match end when someone’s taken down (like Sumo)? Are you just trying to touch his shoulders to a flat surface like in Collegiate Wrestling (see p. 45!)?

How you finish will depend on your goals. A GURPS “Pin” (p. B370) is gone from the rules. You do that by accumulating enough Control Points to render all of your foe’s rolls moot, easily foiled by his failure and your own defenses.

Parting Shot

There’s lots of detail and rules in the book. But the basics are exactly the same as regular GURPS combat. Make an attack (and “breaking free” is now also an attack, so that’s not something unusual), your foe defends, and if he fails, you roll “damage” in the form of Control Points. If you want to do something fancy, this will almost always be resolved as a Quick Contest of skill, where margin of victory and Control Point spend will tell the tale.

But as you can see from some examples, both on this blog and on the forums, there’s some really cool (if I do say so myself) narrative possibilities here for those who want them!

What’s Next?

+Christopher Rice asked me a while ago to translate Black Widow’s fight in Iron Man 2 into Technical Grappling.

In the words of Laufey: “I . . . accept.”

This has come up often enough that I feel it might be a good idea to show a few things on how using Technical Grappling is supposed to work. So I’m going to be doing a bunch of posts showing fights with the rules. Anyone else using these rules is more than welcome to mail me some sample fights, and I’ll host them or link to them on The Grappling Mat.

“OK, so assume I’ve grappled the guy . . .”

Woah woah woah, pardner. Ease up. You missed the key first step.

One of the things that a lot of “what if” examples start with is the assumption of a grapple. OK, fine, but the really, really key thing that you always have to state if using TG is how many CP have been obtained by each fighter as part of that scenario. It’s absolutely crucial, because the rules absolutely assume that the CP lower the ST and DX of your foe. So in short, you must include the fact that if a ST 40 guy grapples a guy with ST 10, DX 14, ST 40 does 4d+1 CP on achieving a grapple. That’s an average of 15 CP, imparting -7 to ST and DX of our utterly average foe. THAT makes the “so, I’ve grappled you” opening statement more like the massively powerful grapple turns him into ST 3, DX 7 . . . roll vs. that. Likewise, if ST 10, DX 14 grapples ST 40, and let’s say he has Wrestling-18 for +3 Trained ST, he will do 1d CP. If he rolls a 6, that’s -3 to ST 40’s ST, but the DX penalties are scaled down for the high ST, and he’s unpenalized (-1 DX per 8 CP). So ST 40, DX 10 becomes (woo hoo) ST 37, DX 10.

So let’s back up and start again, and game out a really basic fight between two grapplers using realistic assumptions.

Meet the Combatants

Let’s start a DX-based Judo artist built on (only) 52 points. In the other corner, we’ll build more for ST-based moves.

Joe Doka: ST 11, DX 11, Judo-15 [DX+4], Arm Lock-17 [DX+5]. Trained ST 12, Trained HT 11, CP 1d-1. Judo Parry-10.

Russ Lerr: ST 13, DX 10, Wrestling-14 [DX+4], Arm Lock-15 [DX+5], Ground Fighting at full skill and only -1 to defend. Trained ST 16, Trained HT 13, CP 1d+1. Wrestling Parry-10.

Two 52-point fighters, one based on Judo and DX, the other more based on ST and Wrestling. At about 50 points, neither one is particularly super-duper, nor deep in their fighting ability.

Have plan? Must have plan.

Joe’s higher DX means he’ll go first, and we’ll assume a near-sport type of match, where they start one yard apart.

Joe’s basic strategy must be to try and stay standing. He will face full, nasty penalties if he’s on the ground, and that -4 to hit and -3 to defend for posture will suck – he’s not a cinematic fighter. He can probably do a nice Judo Throw, his basic grapple ability is good, and once he has a limb, his very credible Arm Lock will probably ensure a successful lock, but he’ll have to watch his relative facing. Joe will make extensive use of retreating parry, where he can, since he gets +3 on a retreating parry.

Russ’ strategy will certainly be to take his foe down. Once there, his advantages will be huge, fighting at full skill and with only -1 to defend. His go-to on this one is Force Posture Change, but he can try to Sweep at Wrestling-4 (meh). He too can try for a lock. To help with the takedown, he’ll grapple the legs to double the effect any any CPs he manages to inflict (TG, p. 10). Once on the ground, his superior Trained ST and a net skill advantage of Wrestling-14 vs Judo-11, Wrestling Parry-9 vs Judo Parry-7 should allow him to build up CP to achieve superior position, like rear mount, immobilizing Joe and then choosing a Wrestling-based finisher.

I’m going to put notes about choices and metagame info on the fight in blue indented italics.

Less Talk, More Fight!

Joe’s first move is to declare All-Out Defense (Parry). The +2 will come in handy, and he knows that Russ needs/wants to shoot in for his legs. He doesn’t want to go to ground, and while he could try and aggressively grapple first, the Judo Parry is nice because it allows a throw while not in Close Combat.

Joe could Wait, and I’m sure someone will chime in to tell me in detail why this is the best strategy. But do note that the +2 for AoD(Parry) precisely offsets the -2 for Grabbing Parry, which achieves the grapple required for most moves. Combined with Joe’s retreat, that’s +5 for any defenses he’ll take, and most Judo moves work really well off of a parry.

Russ wants and needs to get in and shoot for the legs. He’ll take a Step and Wait to close to one hex distance. He could dart in and grapple low using All-Out (Long) or Committed with extra step, but he needs to be able to defend and he knows it. So, step and Wait, and grapple the legs if Joe enters CC.

Joe doesn’t bite, and steps back. He’s going to force Russ to shoot. We could do this for a while, but we won’t. Russ will try a Feint, since Joe is clearly going to wait, Steven Seagal-like, until the end of time.

Note that the Setup Attack option from my Pyramid article is a bad choice for Russ – it triggers the parry he’s hoping to avoid.

So, Feint. Quick Contest. Russ rolls 6, and ah! Joe rolls 11. (I’m rolling actual dice here). Russ wins by 4.

Joe, deprived of the metagame information that he’s been successfully Feinted, continues to take AoD (Parry).

I’ll admit I feel like there’s probably a better answer here. Evaluate probably should be allowed as a cumulative benefit even while taking All-Out Defense, but in this case, Russ scored with his first feint.

On his next turn, Russ launches a Committed Attack (Determined) for the legs at a net of -1, including the -2 for taking two steps to close the distance, and ending kneeling. He rolls 8 and hits. Joe retreats, has AoD’d, but is at -4 for Russ’ Feint, for a net of  Parry-11. If Joe was forced by the Harsh Realism rules to achieve a Grabbing Parry to use Judo Throw (TG, p. 39) he’d be rolling vs. Parry-9.

The “ending kneeling” is not strictly required. Technically, I suppose you can do a leg grapple from the GURPS crouching position, but I’m going to say you have to kneel. I can do that. I’m the GM. 🙂 I view this as an application of Impossible Positions (TG, p. 11), which should definitely be read as ‘the GM says what’s what’ since GURPS is a Rule Zero game.

Alas, Joe rolls a 12.  No parry for him in any case. Russ hits the legs and rolls a 6 for CP, scoring 7 CP on Joe’s leg! Joe is -3 to ST and DX with that leg, and -1 to ST and DX for everything else due to referred control.

This is the first divergence point in the fight. I’m going to digress into options for a moment. Much like options for weapons and unarmed striking, there are now lots of ways for this fight to go.

Even on the successful attack, the maximum roll for CP was a lucky break. A more-typical 3-4 CP would have been only -1 or -2 to ST and DX on the legs alone, and either no penalty or a fairly paltry -1 to ST and DX for referred control. Joe could expect to work around that fairly easily. But no…it was a really good grapple. 

Had Joe Doka parried this shoot, his next move would likely be a Judo Throw, though a Lock of the head or arm would also be possible. Indeed, the usual response, if you can pull it off, to a low attack is to try and grapple the head and choke the attacker out. 

The divergence point here, then, is large.

The thing to avoid from a realism/game perspective is a series of repeated Feints until Russ wins by enough to just blow through Joe’s defenses. Whether that’s a house rule, invoking the multiple feints rules, or making feints cumulative (so that a lousy Feint on the previous roll puts you “in the hole” on the repetition), something will need to be done. As it happens, Russ won handily, winning by 5 off of a skill differential of -1, so he gets the -4 to defend for his shoot. 

Joe is at a 7 CP deficit and with the grapple of one of his legs, unstable. He needs to remove this threat somehow, ideally by breaking contact.

The first option would be to attack to break free, but he’s at a penalty from referred control and he’s both weaker than Russ and using Judo, both of which are staring at lower Trained ST as a result. Unless he crits, the 5 CP maximum he can remove won’t remove the grapple or the instability.

A real option for a better-rounded fighter would be a strike. Nothing says “get the hell off of me” like a knee to the face or an elbow to the top of the head. Kicking with the free leg and punching are both “only” at -1 to ST and DX, but at a -5 target. Another striking option would be All-Out Attack for Grab and Smash. There’s a rule tucked into Drop That Weapon! (p. 13) talking about shock and injury temporarily reducing Grip CP, and I think that makes sense as a general case. Bash someone hard in the face, and they need to make a HT roll or something or lose some CP.

Make no mistake, Russ has zero incentive to waste time getting Joe to the ground, and the 7 CP lucky roll means he’s nearly certain to put him there. Joe knows this.

Joe has to get out of there. He’s going to try a high-risk move, and use Judo Throw on Russ. Grapples are now mutual, so Joe has the contact he needs to just try and throw Russ as-is, but offensive Judo Throws are resolved by Contest, so Joe can use his CP to help foil it. Joe will try All-Out Attack (Double) – his skills aren’t high enough for Rapid Strikes – to grapple Russ back and also try a throw on the same turn.

Joe attacks the torso – and rolls a 9 for a hit.

The point of this first attack is to try and score enough CP to offset the 7 CP on the leg; Joe can hope to score 0-5 CP on a successful hit, averaging 2-3.

Russ is kneeling and used Committed Attack (-2 to defenses that don’t use the hands, which a Hands-Free Parry does not), is unpenalized by his kneeling posture due to his Ground Fighting, but the GM rules that having attacked the legs, and being kneeling, Joe is effectively grappling his flank or back, for a further -2 to defend. Parry-6, using the Hands-Free Parry rules (TG, p. 22-23) and he rolls an 8. Joe rolls a 4, scoring 3 CP on Russ’ torso.

The whole-body penalties involved (TG, p. 6) are 3 CP referred to Joe’s head, neck, and torso (9 CP total), and 3 CP on Russ’ torso, with 1 CP referred to head and neck (5 CP total). Penalties for the contest are that total divided by 4, rounded normally: -2 for Joe and -1 for Russ.

This is the only time in TG, I think, where referred control on ungrappled body parts stacks this way. It seems an odd rule, but I swear it works – RPK and I tried a bunch of scenarios to ensure it made sense.

The contest is Joe’s Judo (less -2 for control on a whole body movement) vs Russ’ Trained ST, DX, or best grappling skill (again, -1 for the impact of Joe’s grapple). The basic contest, then, is Joe rolling vs. Judo-13 and Russ rolling vs his Trained ST, modified down to 15. Joe goes for broke – he’s going to wind up prone anyway, and drops prone himself for +4 to his roll, making it Judo-17. He’ll also burn his full allotment of 3 CP, lowering Russ’ score to 12.

Russ is having none of it, and will spend all but the 1 CP required to keep Joe unstable – 6 CP. Final contest is a relatively even Judo-11 vs. Trained ST 12.

Joe rolls 9, Russ rolls 11, and Joe wins the contest by 1! Russ is thrown, and rolls 10 vs. his HT 10 and is not stunned. The players and GM rule that this was rolling backwards, throwing Russ over top, but landing with both prone, Russ still on Joe’s leg. It’s not unreasonable for Russ to have retained his 1 CP grip on Joe’s legs for this.

Had Russ failed his HT roll, and been stunned, the game would basically be up. Russ would have lost his grapple (misison accomplished), and Joe could have moved in for a crippling choke or arm lock more or less at his leisure. This is the second major divergence point.

Russ’ turn, now, and he’s going to keep working that leg, but he’s also going to try and take advantage of this opportunity to attack Joe after his All-Out Attack. He’s going to try a Telegraphic grapple using both legs and arms against Joe’s leg, effectively trying to set up a knee-bar position. Checking the Grip ST Table on p. 47, and then adding in the Training Bonus, Russ is ST 23 for this move, and net Wrestling-16 (+4 for Telegraphic, -2 for grappling with his legs). Roll 8 and hits, and 2d+1 CP yields 10 CP more, for 11 CP on Joe’s leg! Joe is now at -5 ST and DX for the grappled leg, and an additional -2 ST and DX everywhere else, including most skill use.

Joe is effectively now operating at Trained ST 10, DX 9, Judo-9, Judo Parry-6 for most skill use, and is even worse using that grappled leg.

Joe’s turn, and he’s got a major problem here. He’s not going to be able to get up, and his Judo is severely compromised by the CP on his leg. He’s going to try and injure Russ with a kick to the face and try and force a stun check. Rock out with an All-Out, Telegraphic (+8) Kick (DX-2) to the face (-5) making it a net of Kick-10. Roll 8 and hits! Russ cannot do a hands-free parry vs. a strike, and is a net of +1 to Parry (-1 for being prone, +2 for receiving a telegraphic attack) in any case. He chooses to let go with both hands, dropping from raw ST 20 down to 16, losing 2 CP by virtue of letting go (drops the leg grapple to “only” 9 CP). His Wrestling Parry is 11, and he rolls a 7.

I’ll admit here that the dice are really favoring Russ. Had he gotten the boot, he’d have done 1d-2 damage, rolled and came up with 2 points, enough to cause a shock penalty. Then Russ actually failed his HT roll, rolling 11 vs. a 10, and was stunned! This would have either led to Russ first losing his grapple, then (if he failed to snap out of it) Joe likely grabbing an arm and putting Russ in the Arm Bar of Doom, using All-Out Attacks until and unless Russ wakes up. This is the third time the fight could have gone Joe’s way.

Russ can again act without fear of retaliation, and reacquires the leg by attacking with both arms using a Telegraphic Attack. He rolls a 9, Joe can’t parry, and he adds Trained ST 16 for 1d+1 CP to his total, rolls a 6 (Dude. Dice.) for 7 more CP, bringing Russ up to his maximum CP of 16 (limited by Trained ST).

Joe is effectively now operating at Trained ST 7, DX 7, Judo-7, Judo Parry-5 for most skill use, and is even worse using that grappled leg.

All-Out Face kick again for Joe. Rolls a 12 and misses.

 Russ could try Wrench Leg, but he’s not improved it, and that would make it Trained ST 12 vs. Joe’s HT 10. Not awful odds, but not certain. Instead, Russ goes for a Leg Lock, rolling to attack vs. Wrestling-14. He hits, and Joe rolls a 9 to defend – no matter what he’s doing (Parry or Dodge) he fails. The limb is locked.

This time, Joe wants none of that and Telegraphic Attacks to break free. Rolls an 8 vs a modified Judo-11, but Russ can do a Hands-Free parry, rolls a 9 (vs. Parry-9, so he just makes it) and the joint is still locked.

Russ can now try and break Joe’s leg, and he will do so. He spends 3 CP to set the upper bound injury at a crippling 6 HP (locked joints count double). Russ’ trained ST with two arms and two legs is a whopping 23, vs. Joe’s Trained ST 8 or Trained HT 11. Russ can spend a CP to lower Joe’s roll to the base HT 10, and he does so. Win or lose, the CP on Joe’s leg are reduced to 12 next turn.

Russ rolls a 9, and Joe an 8 – Russ wins the contest by 11, more than enough to inflict maximum injury and crippling the leg.

Parting Shot

The interplay between Control Points, Posture, and even position (though it didn’t come up much) is pretty clear here. The Wrestler came out on top, but there were several chances for the Judo guy to turn the tables.

First, the “I Feint until I win” probably has some limits somewhere, but I’ll admit my Search Fu is failing.

Next was that the fight had a few places where it could have gone either way. Had Joe gotten that successful Judo Parry, the ensuing throw would have had a chance of stunning Russ (50-50) and possibly injuring him. Depending on what that looks like, Joe could have grabbed an arm from crouching, and put Russ in a standing arm lock to end the fight. Likewise, the second throw – the successful one – nearly did end the fight, as did the kick to the face.

The real weakness in the builds was a total lack of striking skills, as well as the deliberate lack of Ground Fighting on Joe’s part. That was there to prove a point, and that point was “spend the five points it takes to be a good ground fighter.” Or bring a sword.

Technical Grappling really cranks up the resolution on grappling and ground fighting. I hope this example shows how.

A Comment from the Forums

The poster known as Purple Haze makes a great point, salient to comparisons between this example and reality:

As an old judoka I find it hard to believe a judo practitioner’s “basic strategy is to try and remain standing.”
Try to be the one doing the takedown so you have an advantage when you get there, but get the fight on the ground as soon as possible. Is the basic strategy of judo and jujitsu.

There’s wisdom here, but also a common misconception. Our guy is not either a “Judoka” or a “jujitsu practitioner.” He’s “a guy with only Judo and nothing else.”

If you look at the writeup of BJJ in Martial Arts, the realistic skills are both Judo and Wrestling, Techniques include Ground Fighting, all the locks, and Low Fighting! Basically a combination of both fighters. Jiu-Jitsu (not BJJ) has Judo and Karate, with Ground Fighting as an optional skill only, so the basic style is stand-up based. Judo itself (p. 166) is Judo Sport, Ground Fighting, Technique Mastery (Judo Throw and Sacrifice Throw), which has a solid ground fighting basis.

The builds at play are, as I say in the intro, not optimized. Technical Grappling rewards skill depth, as does Martial Arts, as does real life. These one-skill wonders suffer badly from

* The wrestler is pretty incompetent against strikes
* The Judo-skill guy is incompetent on the ground (!!)

It’s a mistake, though a common one, to associate the GURPS skill names with styles of similar name. In this case, I made a dedicated ground fighter and a dedicated standup fighter, on about 52 points.

Next time, I will take a couple actual stylists built on 100 points.