This one is going to be some thoughts, but I’ll get this out of the way early: I’m not terribly experienced with the current and alternate GURPS Magic systems. Some of that is lack of interest, some is lack of experience . . . but some is experience playing and GMing in a few games (not lots) where magic featured, and walking away less than fully thrilled.

Many of the issues and questions I’ll raise are not new or novel. A good, even cursory, search of the GURPS Forums will reveal most of these questions, I’m sure, along with answers. Maybe even answers from +Sean Punch or Rev Pee Kitty.

Anyway, some random thoughts and discussion about magic in GURPS.

Skill-based GURPS Magic

The basic core system presented in GURPS magic is at it’s core, skill based rather than advantage-based. No surprises there. Each spell is a skill, and you derive those skills the same way you derive all skills: a base attribute, plus any levels of bonus-granting attributes like Talents, plus points invested in the skill itself.

Whipping out Cadmus, whose skills are a blend of physical and mental stuff, I find that for this particular DF character, I’ve got 9 DX-based skills, 8 IQ-based skills, 3 HT-based skills, and 1 Per-based (which of course is also an IQ-based one). One of the IQ-based skills, though, is Holy Warrior!, a bang skill that “replaces Leadership, Religious Ritual, Strategy, Tactics, and Theology, as well as Hidden Lore, Physiology, and Psychology specialties pertaining to evil monsters. Make a Will-based roll for Exorcism, Intimidation, or Meditation.” (Dungeon Fantasy 1, p. 18).

So this character effectively has 18 IQ-based skills.

Where should I spend my points, then? Clearly on IQ, for anything where relative skill level doesn’t matter much. If I choose not to buy up Per and Will (though that counts against the disad total, should one exist) then it’s blindingly obvious that increasing my IQ is the way to go. There are some caveats. Since Monster Hunters came out, one of the great benefits of “Bang!” skills is that every 12 points in one can give you a “bonus point” that can be spent on several things, such as rerolling bad die rolls or avoiding critical failures, or even spending a couple to make a roll into a critical success. Having only one (as Cadmus did until maybe recently) is a limit, having three or so is nice, and more than that starts to get a bit silly, but they’re always nice to have, and nice to use.

Why the digression?

Magery is the Talent for casting spells (it also defines your power level), and adds to IQ when figuring the base from which you calculate skill level. There’s a 5-point Magery 0 buy-in, but after that, it’s 10 points/level, and gives +1 for every spell you know. Given that higher levels of Magery are also prerequisites for more powerful spells, and often the amount of energy you can put into a spell is limited by Magery or some multple of it . . . well, that’s looking pretty attractive. Certain genres have different limits on how many levels of Magery you can buy, but unless you’re only buying a few spells, the value here is pretty clear.

Next, especially if you are going to spend 4 points in more than five (only five!) spells, is IQ. Given how many magical effects might require a Will roll, I’d never buy down Will, but perhaps slacking on Per isn’t fatal. Maybe not. I like Perception. Too many conversations/interactions in gaming begin with “everybody make Perception rolls,” and that’s not just a GURPS thing; it happens so often in Pathfinder that I’ve made some nasty noises about how Perception should be a class skill for all classes.

Anyway, the issue here, of course, is that building your classic Mage with bunches of Magery and IQ starts to get niche-stomping on anyone with IQ-based stuff pretty quick.

If that’s a problem for you, of course many solutions exist. You could create a new stat called Magic or something that replaced IQ as the base for spells’ skill levels. You could just assume that all mages have a base of 10, plus any levels of magery. Increasing IQ is interesting, but relative skill level is based of off 10+Magery, and so you might use IQ-based rolls to discuss magic intellectually, Will-based rolls to resist the effects of a similar spell, but you roll against 10+Magery+Relative Skill Level to actually cast it.

Huge Tracts of Grimoire


In my limited experience, though, people have a lot of spells. With hundreds and hundreds of spells in GURPS Magic for Fourth Edition, and the way point investiture can work, having three or four dozen spells isn’t out of line at a point or two each. Without large dependencies on relative skill level, and the standard rules presented on GURPS Magic, p. 8 do not have such a dependency, the benefits of increasing the base level for all spells is huge. You get a reduction in the cost of a spell by 1 FP starting at effective skill 15 and another every five points of skill thereafter. Not “relative skill,” but skill, as in IQ+Magery+relative skill level.

I know where I’m spending my points.

Game Play and Feel


In the GURPS Jade Regent Dungeon Fantasy game I play in with +Nathan Joy as GM, the spellcasters we’ve had have used the basic Magic rules (as opposed to one of the alternates presented in GURPS Thaumatology, or cribbing from Ritual Path Magic, from Monster Hunters and with a big expansion book coming out).

I find that the feel of the system doesn’t work for me as well as I’d like. There are many complex effects, each of which can invoke special rules. It’s very technical, not terribly mystical, and sometimes the spells are wildly effective, and others . . . not so much. +Mark Langsdorf could probably fill many screens of text on this, since he’s got a very good grasp of the “do/do-nots” of the magic system.

That imbalance can be all well and good when you’re on the giving end; not so much receiving, sometimes.

Also, the Magic book – the spells particularly – feel like they either have too much metasystem (or metasystem applied unevenly) or not nearly enough. You’d better be ready to look up how it’s all done, and some spells seem to follow different rules. The energy cost vs. spell effects trade could really use some serious rationalization, but that wasn’t done when the book was revised for Fourth Edition.

Honestly, this is where the Divine Favor and Ritual Path Magic type systems shine. They have an underlying metasystem that’s very strong, and so you can be more sure that powers and abilities are balanced against each other. 

Parting Shot

I’ve occasionally been tempted to play a mage in the game. The versatility and occasionally power of the spells is compelling, but ultimately, I’m turned away by the complexity of the system. I happily play a Divine Favor-based Warrior Saint, though. He’s got a much smaller number of enumerated powers, and then uses the General or Specific Prayer mechanic (two rolls, one for petition, one for reaction, GM decides what the results are on a success) for other stuff. That’s a lot of GM fiat, but you can always do this, and it’s hugely flexible and fast and fun to play.

I’ve played in a game recently with Ritual Path Magic, and the mechanics for casting spells are pretty straight-forward, but they’re heavily weighted to out-of-combat play. You need to spend a lot of mechanics-time defining a ritual, make a ton of rolls to gather energy, and then you do the spell, which if you’re sitting around a table, will get you beaten to death with large core rulebooks or pelted with d4s, and you’ll deserve it. It very much rewards coming to the table prepared. And really needs a grimoire of pre-written spells, which I have to believe is a core part of the upcoming book.

I’ll have more thoughts on magic in GURPS coming up. But by and large, I’ve found it something I like other people to play, but because of the idiosyncrasies of the skill-based system, it takes a bit of work to prevent the Wizard from being the best at all things that might derive from IQ. And that’s annoying.

This is a follow-on post to my previous one about how to get a certain DR value for the lowest cost possible. Well, the lowest cost possible without dressing up a a wicker statue. Or a tree.
I’m biased that way.
Still, I promised to revisit this for the wealthy, and so for GURPS-Day today, here we go.
Introduction Repeated

GURPS Low Tech is a pretty darn good book. There’s a lot of value there, and even more so in the three companions.

There are a few books out, such as Instant Armor, and the forthcoming Low Tech Armor Loadouts, that help whittle down the very large job of choosing armor kit. It took me a very, very long time to assemble the armor for Cadmus, my Warrior Saint in +Nathan Joy‘s game.

Along the way, I put together a spreadsheet. It took permutations of the various armor types in Low Tech, with quality and heaviness modifiers. I then sorted it by DR, and calcualted Cost/DR as well as Weight/DR.

Here, I present a long summary table of the results of that work, this time sorted by DR per unit weight. I’ve removed enough material that you can’t do without the book (and I’m still not even remotely sorry).

Warriors Unburdened
My premise here is less simple than last time, where you were starting off on a budget.This time, you’ve either purchased enough Wealth or starting cash that you can skip the cheap stuff, or you have been around the block a few times and can afford to upgrade. That’s exactly what happened to Cadmus, as a by-the-way. I started with a complex and unbalanced set of armor, as follows:

1xMail, Plate, and Leather Armor Panoply

1× Boots, Leather ($80; 3 lb; DR 2)1× Cloth, Padded Undersuit (Shoulders, Upper Arms, Legs, Torso; Reduced Cost (-20%); $88; 13.2 lb; DR 1*)1× Gauntlets, Medium Segmented (Reduced Cost (-20%); $72; 2.4 lb; DR 4)1× Layered Leather, Medium (Front Forearms, Front Knees, Front Shins; Leather of Quality; $440; 10.4 lb; DR 4)1× Mail and Plates (Shoulders, Front Thighs, Front Torso; Reduced Cost (-20%); $924; 16.5 lb; DR 5)1× Mail, Heavy (Upper Arms, Back Thighs, Back Torso; Cheap; Reduced Cost (-20%); $316.8; 14.85 lb; DR 4*)1× Plate, Medium (Full Helm, Padding; Reduced Cost (-20%); $612; 7.8 lb; DR 7);
Wow. That’s a lot of bizarre stuff, but it was a balance of protection up front, weight, and most of all, cost. I bought as much extra Cash (5 points worth) as allowed, which I think gave me a $3500 starting point (less the Dwarven Axe and other weaponry). It also took me a long time and a lot of help by +Mark Langsdorf , +Emily Smirle , +Kevin Smyth , +Nathan Joy , and +Theodore Briggs . 

After we adventured for a bit, we came into a bit of money. Cadmus can’t keep more than he can carry by Holy Vow, but good armor is expensive. I upgraded!

1× Boots, Leather ($80; 3 lb; DR 2)1× Cloth, Padded Undersuit (Full Suit, Ornate (x2 cost), Lighten 3/4); $375; 12.4 lb; DR 1*)1× Gauntlets, Medium Segmented (Reduced Cost (-20%); $72; 2.4 lb; DR 4)1× Heavy Mail Armss and Legs (Ornate x2 cost; Lighten 3/4; Fortify +1); $3668; 20.25 lb; DR 6/4*)1× DR 7 Plate Corselet (Torso; TL4 x2 cost; Lighten 3/4, Fortify +1); $6150; 18 lb; DR 8)1× DR7 Plate Full Helm (Padding;TL4 x2 cost; Fortify +1; Lighten 3/4); $1845; 6.75 lb; DR 8);
This cost me a favor from the party merchant prince, and about $12,000 in cash. While the low-level Fortify and Lighten spells are more expensive in Nate’s game because he wants all magically enchanted stuff to start from a base of at least +1 Cost Factor  (a good rule; no enchanting crap stuff), the big changes is that I’m now equally protected on front and back, and my encumbrance while armored dropped from Medium to Light – a big deal. 
So, where’s the awesome when you have money to burn?

Cheesy Protection: DR 1-2


Well, while this might not be enough protection to do much other than protect against incidental contact and angry kittens (maybe), you can at least do this in some semblance of style here.
The DR 1 go-to by far is fine light leather. This low-end protection can be yours at 3.3 lbs, which isn’t bad for covering your full torso (but not arms, legs, which add their usual +150% to the weight and cost of these figures).
For the next level of non-protection, you are, interestingly enough, looking at cheap versions of otherwise very expensive armors as well. Light brigandine is nice if you need to not be quite so obvious and comes in at ten pounds, while cheap plate that is usually DR 3 but downgraded due to being cheap   Both will ring your cash register for $350-400, so you’re paying nearly $200 per point of DR – but both combined cost less than fine light leather!
Low-end Serious

DR 3 is enough to provide just less than average proection against a 1d attack. So it’s just enough to pretend you’re wearing armor, and honestly, there are times, like getting hit to the vitals, where with that x3 wound multiplier, removing 9 points of injury really is the difference between life and death.

If you’ve got money to burn, fluted DR 3 plate is the way to go.Thing is, that fluting is a very large cost multiplier for a very small weight reduction, so just regular-old boring DR 3 plate is probably a slightly better bet, as it comes in at 8 lbs for front -and back protection to the torso. 

Decent Serious Protection
Now at DR 4-5 you’re looking at being protected vs. the average damage from a 1d or 1d+1 attack, or being completely protected vs. 1d-2 or 1d-1, which doesn’t look like much, but it effectively renders you proof against unarmed punches of up to ST 12 to 14, which ain’t all bad.

The king here will always wind up being plate armor. It’s nearly too good, but then again, you are paying thousands or even nearly ten of thousands of dollars for the privilege here.

So duplex and hardened plate are the tickets for the uber-rich. You’re still talking about 8 lbs, or slightly less, but you’re sporting DR 4.

Again for the sneaky and fashionable set, the 10-lb hardened light brigantine is pretty interesting too, and if you drop down to light hardened mail. it’s still expensive (and not rigid), but literally half the cost of the more-expensive plate or brigantine.

We don’t yet have a piece of torso armor that breaks the ten grand mark yet – but we’re getting darn close

Starting to Tank Out

DR 6 and DR 7 are the points where you would normally find plate armor, and so you do. In fact, without magic the only way you can achieve DR 7 using Low Tech and Instant Armor that doesn’t involve some form of plate is hardened jousting mail (for $7500).

But that’s not even the most expensive non-magical armor – though a sorting error has provided a nice example of where you can get with magical help, with Mail and Plates (usually starting at DR 5) being slapped with Ornate, Fortify +2, and Lighten for just shy of $10K.

For DR 6, you are still throwing down with hardened and duplex plate, with a very large price increase  being paid to save about a pound and a half going from hardened to duplex.

If you don’t mind mail and 18 lbs instead of 14.4 lbs, you can go with hardened heavy mail, which is TL2, DR 6, and not stupidly expensive.
You Wanna Wear WHAT?

Oh, you can now wear plate, plate, plate, plate, and look . . . more lembas bread.

Mmmmm.

But yeah, in the DR Crazyland realm you can basically count on hardened and duplex plate being the best combination of weight per DR you can get short of physics-busting stuff.

You Can do Magic . . .

Adding magic adds cost, and can add a lot of it. If money really is no object, you want Lighten 1/2 and Fortify +2 – more if you can get it, but I’ll assume you can’t. There’s really no trick here – take the best armor per unit weight, cut that weight in half (and pay through the nose for it), and you might as well add +2 DR through magic while you’re at it.

Parting Shot

Actually, when you really look at it, and I should have long ago, the answer to “best protection per unit weight is duplex plate all the way from DR 4 on up. Not terribly surprising, but also very, very expensive. I think even without Nate’s house rules, DR 10 duplex plate runs more than $20K (we double cost for TL4, and my sheet says it’s over $40K, so . . . )

So ultimately, this is less interesting in terms of choices than the “do it on a budget” post was, largely because there’s really only one answer – wear plate – unless other things intervene.

Such things can be concealability (brigantine, probably) or being not metal for noise, electrical conductivity, or if it interferes with tropes such as no metal armor for spellcasters.

There’s also the fact that even at 3-ish pounds per point of DR, DR 11 duplex plate is still 32 lbs for just your torso, and about 90 lbs for a full suit including a helm.

Some recent posts by me and others have touched on combat pacing.

On the one hand, we have a situation where the frantic pace of blows given and received strikes some as unreasonable for certain situations. It doesn’t properly match some one-on-one combats, and even when it does, one has to invoke pretty extreme rules (like The Last Gasp) to force people to back off after a few seconds.

So, thoughts about combat openings and ‘closures’ came into play, with a neat way of generating these online developed by +Christian Blouin. Still, that has the potential to not just slow down combat, but to make play drag.

Is there any way to basically be able to rip around the table, and down the NPC action sheet (should one exist) and if you have six players and ten NPCs (for example), you can resolve all sixteen potential actions in only a few moments, with no real perceived penalty to fun by saying “Evaluate!” each turn?

Why do I even care? One of the features, I think, of the current GURPS battlefield (discussed here) is that it can be relatively immobile. A few seconds of time between blows means that friends and neighbors can reposition to be mutually supportive, that building up a spell doesn’t feel like a drag, etc.

But with the default (and likely proper) thing in most combats being “do something violent and effective” more often than not, I’m not sure if it’s really reconcilable with the current rules.

So, what would I feel like I need – or, as I continually remind my 3yo, needs are for survival, wants are for everything else – so what would I want in order to get this done?

1. I would want something like Christian’s combat openings application.

Ideally, I’d have an app that when you hit “go” it gives you a list of openings (one or two) and closures (one to four) for the target. These would exist whether or not the attacker uses some sort of mechanic to see them.

I’d want the app to highlight, say, in green the body parts that are more open, and red the ones that are more denied, so that a player (or the GM) can immediately assimilate that information without studying a wall of detailed text.

I’d probably love to have a built in list of combatants, that could be placed and cycled through in initiative order. Drop-down or click-boxes would allow certain options to be set, such as maneuver selection and maybe an optional focused defense selection.

I’d want the ability to designate a “victim” or defender and maybe associate it with the attacker, but perhaps that’s not critical.

2. I’d probably rework certain rules


With respect to the focused defense option, I can see instead of the usual “fencing weapons get +3 to retreat, but regular gets only +1” thing, that you be able to select a “defensive stance” option that gives the extra +2 to defenses, and have that be available and stack with maneuver selection.

You might not even be able to attack if someone retreats out of weapon range, which would force a lot of “two-step” committed attacks be required to close the distance. that feels right to me. By and large, backing off like that is very effective, if tiring, and the primary reasons you don’t do it is when you can’t. That the reason they have rings for matches – and why being in a press of battle is so scary. You can’t back up.

What it means
If you can choose a focused defensive stance, a high/low guard (not mentioned yet, but it’s a logical extension, and GURPS Martial Arts: Gladiators already has a focused defense option in there), and go all-out on the defensive, you can probably make it really hard to land a random GURPS attack without huge amounts of deceptive attack, or exploiting an opening. You’d need to do a lot more Evaluates and Feints (or Setup Attacks) in order to force a hole in your foes defenses. The opening that eventually appears would be a rare and hopefully fun thing.

Downsides are potentially legion. You’d want to ensure that each person can be resolved in only a few seconds. Going once around the table every three minutes or so wouldn’t be awful (ten seconds per person), and would ensure that people stay engaged.

But if there’s a lot more jockeying for position, some of the emergent behavior would be very interesting. Archers and spellcasters that have to take a few seconds to reload would be more compelling. Gang tactics to force holes in defenses or pin a foe down, preventing him from just scampering away, would be much more important. Overall mobility would increase, as with more time between effective action, I think people (or teams of people) would feel they can reposition and move around without missing the fun.

And frantic battle lines would be pretty scary. I think even scarier than usual.

But I think that you’d really, really want to use that application to drive it. Otherwise, too many rolls, too many lookups, and too much non-decision time.

I think it’d be fun to try a game like this, with properly integrated tools. It would definitely have to be playtested though!

Is it me, or as summer approaches here in the Northern Hemisphere, has the new content velocity slowed down in general?

I mean, I know why my velocity has slowed down – work heated up and my wife is training for her Black Sash test in Hwa Rang Do, which means my usual writing time is spent putting my toddler to bed.

But I feel (with no real data or stats) that where I used to see a few posts a week from people (and I was hitting 3-4 posts, sometimes more) things have slowed down.

Thoughts?

+Jon Couts messaged me the other day about a question regarding The Last Gasp.

Turns out he’s running an arena combat with the rules, and he allowed me to link to it.

Click the picture to go to the play-by-post arena combat!

Thanks to Jon for giving the rules a try.

I might suggest he try Delayed Gratification (Setup Attacks) instead of the existing Feint rules in a future combat and see what he and his players think . . .

The important thing to me is that AP allowed the spearman to exhaust her foe, and drove some decisions on the part of the knight that he’d rather not have made. Good HT to aid recovery and shake off the impact of injury for AP reduction was a big deal. At times, skill drove the battle; at other times, fitness. A nice mix, I think. Jon also notes that by the end of the fight, Sir Mander’s ST was low enough that he was getting an extra -1 to use his axe because he didn’t meet it’s Min ST. The Last Gasp gives a small bonus to low min ST weapons in that way. If he’d been using a small axe he’d have been fine.

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

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

Pathfinder Core Rulebook

0.  Prelude
1.  Introduction
2.  Races


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

Please make any comments you have at the individual entries!

*************
Chapter 8: Combat

This one’s going to be a doozy. The Combat chapter. That which more or less defines the D&D paradigm, unless it’s the Vancian fire-and-forget magic system (which is, I believe, the single longest chapter in the book; that spell list goes on-and-on like a Journey song).

But, nonetheless, we wade into the fray like a Raging Barbarian. While combat isn’t the only conflict resolution mechanism in Pathfinder, in the few games I’ve played, it is by far the most common. The Combat chapter is 25 pages long, which isn’t that bad, really. 

I’ll cover some basics as I go, commenting on major mechanics and sections – but read the entire thing, maybe twice. A cheat-sheet wouldn’t hurt, but I bet someone’s created one already!

How Combat Works

Combat proceeds according to a very specific cycle. First determine initiative: Roll 1d20 and add any Initiative bonuses you get. You will act in descending order of initiative. However, before you get to the part where that happens, anyone not aware of his attackers gets to get ganked by the rest in the surprise round. After that, combat starts for real, round by round.

The Combat Round


Six seconds of regular time. Somewhat like GURPS, the turns are sort of interleaved, since if you throw a spell or do something that lasts for (say) four rounds, it lasts from the moment you act to just before you act the fifth time, when the effect ends. That’s a subtlety I didn’t know.

Attacks of Opportunity are a bit the odd men out, since they can disrupt normal turn order. More on those later.

Initiative and Surprise


The first round, or more precisely, before the first round starts, gives all sorts of opportunity – though brief – for havoc and mayhem. There’s a surprise round that comes first, where characters who are aware of their foes can act, while those unaware cannot. There are definite benefits to this, as well as to going first in the Initiative order: all foes are “flat footed,” meaning they lose their DEX bonus to AC (opening them up to things like Rogue’s Sneak Attack ability) and cannot make Attacks of Opportunity until they are no longer flat-footed.

Catching your foes flat-footed, or making them take on that status, is a big deal for Rogues.

During the surprise round, if you are aware of foes you can take any move, free, or standard action.

Combat Statistics


The good stuff. Bringin’ the smackdown, Pathfinder style. 

The core mechanic, no matter what Feats or other things might prove for special exceptions or modifications, is straightforward: Roll 1d20 plus a bunch of modifiers with a target number that must equal or beat your target’s Armor Class (AC). While there are lots of if/then to what you may add or subtract, this and the damage roll are the basic things you do.

This is, in its way, similar to GURPS, though it might be even fewer mechanics. GURPS has four basic mechanics: the skill test (roll 3d6 under a target number, most often skill), the skill Contest (roll 3d6 vs. a target, your opponent does the same, whomever has the highest margin of success wins), the Reaction Roll (3d6, higher is better), and the damage roll (Nd6).

Automatic: A 1 is always a miss; a 20 is always a hit, and might be a critical hit. I’m used to a natural 1 being something truly bad, but the designers (correctly, I think) decided a 1 in 20 chance for a 14th level fighter to do something crazy like lop off his own leg is kinda dumb.

Attacking: Base Attack Bonus + STR modifier (if melee) or DEX modifier (if ranged) + size modifier + range penalties (if ranged)

“Defending”: In quotes because it’s totally passive (but see below). 10+Armor+Shield+DEX+other special mods. Note that on p. 184 you can fight defensively. Declare it on your turn, and you take -4 to all your attacks in exchange for a +2 dodge bonus to your AC. More on this when variant attacks come up.

Personally, I’d shake this up a bit! I’d allow you to trade your Base Attack Bonus 2:1 for an AC bonus due to defensive dodging. So a 14th-level fighter, with BAB of +14, could trade that for +7 to AC. Of course, his three attacks are now at 0/-5/-10 . . .

Smackdown: Damage rolls are based on the weapon. Your Base Attack Bonus does not add to damage, but your STR bonuses do . . . except if you’re using a bow or crossbow. A composite bow can get a STR bonus, but not any other sort.

Again, I don’t much like this. if a bow is keyed to your STR (and it should be), then you should be able to get more damage from a stronger bow. Maybe a composite bow gets a 1:1 STR bonus, and regular bows only get half the bonus for STR or something, but if you’re STR 18 instead of STR 10, your arrows should go farther and hit harder.Granted, my biases here should be well known.

You do get extra STR bonus if you use a weapon with two hands (except a light weapon), so that’s a good thing to remember. That +4 STR bonus turns into +6 with a two-handed sword!

On the flip side, you only get half your bonus with your off-hand.

Ouchitude: You have Hit Points. When you get to zero, you’re incapacitated. Negative and your dying, and if you get to -CON you’re dead.

Personally, I’d like to have a wider range between “I’m up and fully active!” at even but 1 HP, incapacitated at precisely zero, dying at negative and dead when you’re at -CON. 

Attacks of Opportunity

This definitely deserves it’s own space. Attacks of opportunity are ways to ensure that the nature of the Pathfinder combat round (abstracted and 6 seconds long) doesn’t engender some silly emergent behavior, such as being able to run past a fully armed and aware foe because your move is 30′ and it’s your turn and not his.

Attacks of Opportunity come in more or less three flavors

Cut-down Attack of Opportunity List
  1. Leaving (but not entering) a threatened square  (Note: the link is a great visualization of the threat area, and makes me understand it much more completely)
  2. An unarmed attack on an armed opponent.

    This is, to me, precisely analogous to a few things that will happen to you in GURPS, not the least of which is that armed parries on unarmed attacks that aren’t strikers are “aggressive,” or damaging, parries automatically.

  3. Doing something – nearly anything – that doesn’t involve keeping a wary eye and a ready weapon to your foe. This is referred to as a Distracting Act in the rules. This is where most of the persnickety rules will come in.
I’ve cut the list from the Pathfinder Reference Document down to those with a “Yes,” under Attacks of Opportunity. If it’s not in the PRD, it’s not on the list. If it’s in the PRD but doesn’t provoke an Attack of Opportunity, I cut it. I did leave some categories that are explicitly “No” in there, one of which is “Take a 5-foot Step” (not shown explicitly, it’s a No Action action).

By the way, the PRD document with AoO in there is totally pasteable into Excel, as it seems to be raw HTML. So sorting it by yes/no is a trivial thing. Recommended.

You can see that a lot of the stuff involves skill use, rooting around in your pack, and a lot of spell and magic item use. I’m tempted to over-generalize that you’re likely going to provoke an Attack if you’re not directly related to smacking down your foe, but I’m sure there are some exceptions the rule. Might want to keep a copy of the full list handy, either in hardcopy or a window link to the PRD.
How Many: One per round. That’s the “may provoke an attack of opportunity” part of the rules, even though the book and table says “Yes.” If you have the Combat Reflexes feat, you can add your DEX bonus to the number you can make (meaning it’s a pretty cool feat if foes are trying to get by you). But by and large, you get one per round.
Saving Throws: Your way of reducing an “unusual or magical” attack. It’s not Armor Class.It functions as your Base Attack Bonus against physical punishment (a lot like a HT roll in GURPS), stuff you have to leap out of the way to avoid, such as some traps (Acrobatic Dodge in GURPS? Maybe a DX roll), and mental or supernatural resistance (a Will roll in GURPS). The Difficulty Class of the task depends on what you’re doing.
Actions in Combat

You can always do one move and one standard action, or a Full-Round action. In addition, you may also perform one swift action and one or more free actions. A move action is also sort of a standard action subtype, so you can, if you like, do two of them if you don’t plan to attack.

Standard Actions: most stuff, like attacks

Move Action: If you don’t otherwise move, you get a No Action 5-foot step somewhere before, during, or after a standard action. This can be pretty key to maintaining your distance from foes.

Full-Round Action: It consumes your entire round. Well, except for swift and free actions. And maybe you can take a step – except when you can’t. This paragraph on p. 181 is both muddled and clear at the same time, which is a neat trick.

Free Action: Drop stuff, drop your concentration on a spell, drop to the floor, prepare spell components, and speak. You can do any or all of these on your turn subject to Rule Zero.

Swift Action: You only get one of these (casting a quickened spell is the only example) but it doesn’t interfere with any other actions you’re allowed to take.

Immediate Action: A swift action you can take at any time, not just on your turn. Handy. Casting Feather Fall is the only example given, but it would seem logical that reaction spells and other things would qualify.

No Action, or Not an Action: Interestingly, nocking an arrow as part of an attack with a bow is the example given here of something that doesn’t even bother talking about in the time scale. In GURPS, It’s two full seconds – one to draw the arrow, another to ready the bow! Granted that’s two of six seconds, but “not worth quantifying” is interesting. Other examples are Delay and making a 5-foot step.

Standard Actions


Attacks

Most of what you’ll be doing – not all of it, but seemingly most – in melee combat are Standard Actions.  Some key excerpts:

  • Armed melee attacks are standard actions with a 5-foot range, unless you have reach.
  • Unarmed melee attacks provoke an attack of opportunity which happens first, unless you have the Improved Unarmed Strike feat. Also, unarmed attacks do non-lethal damage. And not much of it at that. If you want lethal damage you can have it, but at -4 to hit.
  • Ranged weapons can be thrown five range increments or shot (like bows) 10. That means a composite bow with a 100′ range can shoot 1,000′ or about 330yds. Might be a little bit far, but not out-of-the-question far.
  • Natural attacks such as claws, bites, and tails and wings have a bunch of special caveats that bear reading if these are your attack modes, or you have, say, a Velociraptor Animal Companion that uses them.
  • Multiple attacks are full-round actions, not standard actions. So if you want to be Sir Cuisinart, you’ll give up some freedom of choice
  • It’s -4 to shoot into a melee unless your target is a lot bigger than the other. The rules say “-2 if your target is two sizes larger,” but I’d just say it’s -4 plus the difference in size of your target relative to the foes around him. That scales both ways.
  • This is where Fighting Defensively (mentioned above) is mentioned
  • Roll a 20 and you might have scored a critical hit. Note that some damage types, like a Rogue’s sneak attack, are not multiplied, so read carefully
Magic Items and Casting Spells

Both are standard actions, mostly, and mostly they both provoke attacks of opportunity. Highlights
  • Spell-Triggers, Command Word, and Use-Activated items don’t count as activation; they’re standard actions, I think, but don’t provoke Opportunity attacks
  • “Did I break your concentration?” See Chapter 9 for the Difficulty Class of things that can interrupt you
  • Spells cast as a standard action take effect as immediately as a sword thrust to the guts, which is to say right the heck away.
  • Get thwacked while casting and the DC is 10+damage+spell level. 10 points of damage casting a level 4 spell is a DC 24 check. Yow.
  • Casting on the Defensive: Huh? I’m not sure this is well defined.
  • Touch attacks with a spell are considered to be armed and thus don’t provoke Attacks of Opportunity. Hmmm.
  • You can hold a spell if you don’t want to use it right away, but your hand is now a live wire, and the spell will hit what you touch
Splitting Full-Round Actions

Good for self-consistency, you can split a full-round action into two standard actions, one at the end of Turn A, and the other standard action as the first one of Turn B. This doesn’t apply to Full Attack, charge (why not?), run, or withdraw.
Total Defense

This must be what “on the defensive” means? Anyway, +4 dodge bonus to AC in exchange for, I think, not being able to attack. This can’t be combined with fighting defensively. If you allow the 2:1 exchange I suggest above, this needs to be “adds BAB to AC as Dodge bonus.” This suggests that if anything, maybe the “exchange ratios” need to be more like 1:4 and 1:2 instead of 1:2 and 1:1.
Other Stuff

Without going into details, using a special ability is basically attack-like, move is a standard action, drawing or sheathing a weapon is a move standard action, but may be combined with a move if you have a BAB of +1 or higher. 
Full-Round Actions

Skipping the gory details, if you’re attacking a lot, it’s Full-Round. Some spells are full-round actions. Stepping through difficult terrain is too. One fun one is the Withdraw option, which is running the hell away from combat (2x distance). Not sure what that’s all about, other than the free “you can leave your current hex w/o provoking an attack” thing.
Miscellany

Lots of other descriptions follow, and they’re worth reading, of course.

Injury and Death

Ah, the “what are Hit Points” discussion. Here we go. The short version is as long as you have 1 HP left, you’re fine, good to go, have at ’em. Get to 0 HP and your disabled, go negative and you’re KO’d, and hit a negative HP total equal to your CON, and you die. Rapid transtion from “fully capable” to “deader than hell.”

A massive damage optional rule that says if you take 50HP or half your HP in one blow, whichever is more, you’re dead.

At 0 HP, you’re staggered, can only take one move action, no standard actions without injuring yourself (and thus KO)

If you’re dying, you drop unconscious and lose 1 HP per second until you die or stabilize, but this HP loss is the result of a failed Constitution check, DC 10 plus your negative HP total. If you succeed or roll a 20, no HP loss this turn. Fail, and lose 1 HP. You can be stabilized permanently using magic (any healing stabilizes you) or making a DC 15 Heal check.

Dead, well. Fairly self explanatory.

Natural Healing


1 HP per level per 8 hours of sleep at night. Ability score damage also recovers at one point per ability score per night. Nonlethal damage heals at 1 HP per hour per character level. You get better from a bruisin’ pretty quick at high level, eh?

Non-lethal damage my ass. This is something GURPS gets right, I think, though the frequency of taking such lethal injury from some blows, like punches, is too high.

*****
I’m going to break this one into two parts, due to length. More on Combat later!

In my writeup of Cadmus, +Mark Langsdorf and I had a brief interchange about combat vs. non-combat healing. Cadmus is very, very powerful as a healing machine assuming that he has time to recover. The combination of Lay on Hands (Empathic Faith Healing) and Flesh Wounds (rapid wound recovery means he can bring a party of five adventurers from 0 HP to 15 HP each in about two hours.

But that’s two hours. Two. Hours. 120 turns. Pretty much a “Frederickburger” situation if you’re in combat.

That’s where the Clerical magic comes in. Poof, here’s a few dice of healing right there in the middle of combat. A virtual reset button, which is a big deal.

If you can lay on hands in hours, what are the ways to buff one or more of your party members using Powers?

So: here’s a challenge! Post some builds of powers that would make sense using Divine Favor so that a Warrior Saint or Saint can provide combat-useful healing in a challenging DF environment.

+Antoni Ten Monrós: I’d be particularly interested if you’ve thought on this.

The First Answer
Based on some interactions in the comments below, my instinct is, at the same level as you can take Lay on Hands (Divine Favor 8), you can just get Ranged Healing (Healing [30], with Faith Healing [+20%], Ranged [+40%], and Divine [-10%] [45], or 9 points as an LP). This lets you fling a spell-like healing effect by burning FP and making a hit roll. The better way is probably as a Malediction, which at its cheapest is a +100% for -1 per yard of range, and that’s 63 points (Divine Favor 10, 13-point LP) and will cut significantly into combat utility.

Challenge Expanded!

Go ahead and throw down your most potent healing builds, both in-combat and out-of-combat. Ritual Path Magic, regular GURPS Magic – you name it. Just note the build, the amount of healing, and what the limitations are!

Cheat: Power Investiture/Magery


One quick way to get this done is to buy Power Investiture 1 (10 points) and since you are not studying magic, buy Major Healing directly. It’s a Very Hard skill, so with IQ 12 (Cadmus’ level), Power Investure 1 (adds to skill), you will want to spend 12 to 16 points to get IQ+1 or IQ+2, which should net a Healing spell at 14 or 15.

That still winds up on the order of 25 extra points to get healing in there. If you’ve already got Divine Favor 8 and Lay on Hands, the Ranged Healing option above is cheaper.

In many ways, Cadmus, my Warrior Saint in +Nathan Joy‘s Dungeon Fantasy game has been an experiment. He was my first DF character, well, ever. He used new rules – Divine Favor – rather than the standard magic system. I also solicited and accepted a lot of steering on how I put him together.

Now that 280 starting points has grown to 330, with many sessions under my belt, what would I do differently? Are there general theories that emerge?

Divine Favor

First, while I was told that initially I’d be ‘the backup healer,’ I was also steered to a level of oomph in those abilities that really equaled ‘a redundant primary healer.’

By and large, this is a good thing. DF games are notoriously violent, and if your primary guy goes down due to, say, a ninja sword in the back, you need someone who can step up. Or a metric crap-ton of potions.

Also, I don’t know if I’ve just rolled well, Nate’s been kind, or what, but the General, Specific, and Learned Prayers that Cadmus has brought to bear have been really, really fun. Of course, they don’t always work (General and Specific prayers; LPs always work), but when they do, they’re an immense power multiplier.

Once you hit Divine Favor at level 8 to 10, you can really bring on some major mojo.

Anyway, let’s look at Cadmus, who will grow soon to 330 points.

Not that kind of Paladin . . .

Brother Cadmus (313 points)

Age 28; Human; 6’1″; 200 lbs.; Solidly built, friendly looking, moves with purpose.
ST 14* [40]; DX 13 [60]; IQ 12 [40]; HT12 [20]. Damage 1d+1/2d+1; BL 39 lb; HP 14 [0]; Will 14 [10]; Per 12 [0]; FP 12 [0]. Basic Speed 6.25 [0]; Basic Move 6 [0]; Block 12 (Shield)†; Dodge 10†; Parry 13 (Axe/Mace)†. Unspent Points: 2

I’m not sure I’d change much here. The biggest thing that I’ve found is in the Move stat, where more is better. Being the last one to the fight, or being unable to reposition yourself quickly, is a real drag. Especially when faced with fellow compatriots who can act at range or fly.

Some of these stats aren’t precisely accurate, but by and large, this isn’t a bad set. Will-14 has been a real blessing (so to speak), and the only other thing I might recommend here is more Perception. I’ve found the same thing in Pathfinder, but you can never really have too much Perception. Also, my previous analysis of HT suggests that there are real benefits to HT 13 or 14.

Points gained/needed: Maybe 20 between Per and HT. I could potentially trade the 15-20 non-optimal points in skills I found below for some benefits here.

Social BackgroundEdit

TL: 3 [0].
CF: Inner Sea.
Languages: Taldane (Native/None); Trade Speak (Broken/None). [0]

The only weakness here has really been languages, but that’s not his niche. No changes.

AdvantagesEdit

Combat Reflexes [15]; Divine Favor 8 [45]; Learned Prayer (Final Rest) [1]; Learned Prayer (Flesh Wounds) [4]; Learned Prayer (Righteous Fury); Learned Prayer (Protection from Evil, Enhanced) [7]; Learned Prayer (Lay on Hands) [8]; Learned Prayer (Smite); Striking ST 1 [5]; Trading Character Points for Money $2,500 [5].
Perks: Named Possession (Axe, “Shrivener”); Shield-Wall Training; Shtick (Beings killed cannot rise as Undead); Skill Adaptation (Judo Throw defaults to Axe/Mace); Suit Familiarity (Armory/TL3); Weapon Bond (Axe/Mace) [6].

Combat Reflexes is worth it for the defenses alone if you intend to be on the front line – and that’s where Cadmus winds up, especially once we lost Gareth, the other heavy hitter. Thumvar, the Gargoyle Knight, is a front line all by himself at times, but if you’re going to step up, not only is CR worth it, but enhanced defenses in general are a good idea.

I make near-constant use of all of my LPs, with the possible exception of Final Rest, but at only one point, it’s great color, and makes total sense as a paladin of Pharasma, Mistress of Graves, Lady of Fate, and all around chick who hates the undead.

Everyone should look hard at getting a Named Possession. They’re just that awesome.

The only “meh” has been Judo Throw defaulting to Axe/Mace. As I’ve noted before in a few places, this just hasn’t worked for me at all. Notionally, it should be awesome. Parry with the axe, and then next turn you throw your foe to the ground, at which point either you or a second-line guy can murderize him. In practice, not so much. It’s not a BAD use of a point, but it hasn’t worked out well.

Points gained/needed: Maybe one or two points. No more, and not worth fiddling with.

DisadvantagesEdit

Code of Honor (Pharasmic Code) [-10]; Honesty (15 or less) [-5]; Sense of Duty (Adventuring companions) [-5]; Sense of Duty (Ameiko Kaijitsu) [-2]; Vow (Own no more than horse can carry) [-10]; Selfless (12 or Less)*; Disciplines of Faith (Ritualism)*.
  • These advantages were gained in play; Pharasma blessed Cadmus with Righteous Fury and Enhanced version of Protection from Evil, and Cadmus gained Selfless and Ritualism.

Quirks: Does not put himself in the lead role willingly [-1]; Follows an escalation of force (knobbed club, hammer, axe) , kills grudgingly [-1]; Very competitive, but doesn’t start competitions [-1]; Loves to gamble [-1]; Not evangelical; helps people meet their fate, but doesn’t push or preach [-1]

Code of Honor has worked fine, and ties in with my Divine Favor. Selfless and Ritualism were fun, as has been Honesty. The quirk of escalation of force? Yeah, that hasn’t worked out. At all. But it’s only one point, so it’s not a character-changing event. It’s just not appropriate for Dungeon Fantasy, where most disagreements are settled with lethal force from the get-go.

Points gained/needed: Pick a new quirk other than force escalation.

SkillsEdit

Animal Handling (Equines) (A) IQ-1 [2]-12; Armoury/TL3 (Body Armor) (A) IQ-1 [1]-11; Armoury/TL3 (Melee Weapons) (A) IQ-1 [1]-11; Axe/Mace (A) DX+5 [20]-18‡; Bow (A) DX-1 [2]-13; Carousing (E) HT [1]-12; Climbing (A) DX-1 [1]-12; First Aid/TL3 (Human) (E) IQ [1]-12; Gambling (A) IQ [2]-12; Heraldry (A) IQ-1 [1]-11; Hiking (A) HT-1 [1]-11; Holy Warrior! (WC) IQ-1 [12]-11; Observation (A) Per-1 [1]-11; Polearm (A) DX+1 [4]-14; Riding (Equines) (A) DX-1 [2]-13; Savoir-Faire (High Society) (E) IQ [1]-12; Shield (Shield) (E) DX+4 [12]-17; Shortsword (A) DX [2]-13; Stealth (A) DX-1 [1]-12; Swimming (E) HT [1]-12; Wrestling (A) DX-1 [2]-13.
Techniques: Arm Lock (Wrestling) (A) [2]-15; Armed Grapple (Axe/Mace) (H) [0]-15; Armed Grapple (Polearm) (H) [0]-12; Disarming (Axe/Mace) (H) [0]-17; Judo Throw (Axe/Mace) (H) [0]-17; Targeted Attack (Axe/Mace Swing/Neck) (H) [3]-14; Trip (Wrestling) (H) [0]-9; Wrist Lock (Wrestling) (A) [1]-14.
  • Conditional +2 from ‘Striking ST’.
† Includes +1 from ‘Combat Reflexes’. ‡Conditional +1 from ‘Weapon Bond (Axe/Mace)’.

Here’s where things get interesting. I’ve bolded the ones I’ve never made a roll against that I recall. There’s basically 20 points of more or less wasted stuff on there, and I don’t think I’d have put points in Bow if I’d have made the character before I did my analysis of useful levels of skill with ranged weapons. Throwing axes are better for the kind of thing Cadmus would be doing.

The Armoury skills might come in more handy during the long trek north over the ice that we face as the next step in our Journey. But the rest should have been traded for another level of Holy Warrior, which would have cost 12 points but given me another much-needed Destiny/Bonus Point. Those are gold.

So there are 15-20 points here that could be adjusted for better stats, or re-invested on other skills. Holy Warrior-12 is probably worth it for the Destiny Point alone.

EquipmentEdit

1× Hip Quiver ($15; 1 lb) containing 20× Arrow ($40; 2 lb)
1× Fine Composite Bow (ST 13; $3600; 4 lb).
1× Named Possession (Shrivener): Axe (Hilt Punch; Weapon Bond; Hammer; Dwarven; Penetrating Weapon (2); Bane (Spirits, Demons, and the Undead); Defending Weapon +1 (Bane). $10,475; 4.5 lb). [25 Energy unspent]
1× Poleaxe (Spear; $150; 10.5 lb).
1xMail, Plate, and Leather Armor Panoply

1× Boots, Leather ($80; 3 lb; DR 2)1× Cloth, Padded Undersuit (Full Suit, Ornate (x2 cost), Lighten 3/4); $375; 12.4 lb; DR 1*)1× Gauntlets, Medium Segmented (Reduced Cost (-20%); $72; 2.4 lb; DR 4)1× Heavy Mail Armss and Legs (Ornate x2 cost; Lighten 3/4; Fortify +1); $3668; 20.25 lb; DR 6/4*)1× DR 7 Plate Corselet (Torso; TL4 x2 cost; Lighten 3/4, Fortify +1); $6150; 18 lb; DR 8)1× DR7 Plate Full Helm (Padding;TL4 x2 cost; Fortify +1; Lighten 3/4); $1845; 6.75 lb; DR 8);

I’ve got zero complaints about my kit. Shrivener, my Named Axe, is a thing of beauty and awesomeness. My armor could use new boots and gauntlets, but it cost me about $12,000 and was obtained fairly recently in play. DR 8 or so is great to have, and we recently came into enough money ($27K or so) that I could upgrade further if required.

The poleaxe has never seen use. Partly that’s because I couldn’t mentally justify the image of lugging a nine or ten foot pole around in some Highlander-like space. It’s a battlefield weapon, not a dungeon one. Even a dueling poleaxe (Reach 1,2 rather than 2,3) while interesting, isn’t worth the time it takes to switch weapons in most cases.

The bow? Nice, but I’m not skilled enough with it to make it worthwhile, and ST 13 is only 1d, and even with bodkin points for 1d(2) pi it’s not that impressive.

Ballistic’s Report

By and large, Cadmus is and remains a good character. When he gets his Righteous Fury on, he’s a credible front-line combatant, though not as optimized for mayhem as Thumvar. With some time to spare, he can bring some really useful powers to bear, especially out of combat, via his prayers.

But I probably have something like 15-20 fairly non-optimal points in skills that just don’t see much use. In a DF game, that’s really to be avoided. Lesson learned!

Going forward, some of the concepts in +Antoni Ten MonrósSaintly Power-Ups will make for serious consideration. The one where you can have two learned prayers active at once? That’s serious stuff, especially if you want to do Righteous Fury and either Guide My Hand (Cadmus doesn’t have it, but it’s basically Weapon Master), which catapults you to an instant front-line meat cleaver, or something else like Protection from Evil.