This is an article-by-article review of Pyramid #3/57: Gunplay. While I don’t usually do this, the subject matter of this issue is just what this blog ordered, and even if one of my own articles is in it, I really think every article, and nearly every word, of this issue is worth reading. So, a series of (hopefully) shortish posts.

Modern Warfighter: Gear (Kenneth Peters)

This article takes a look at (mostly) man-portable non-weapon equipment lugged around by TL8 soldiers of the lavishly-equipped set.

The article is grouped (by what we know as B-HEADs, or section dividers) into Full Battle Rattle, Uniforms, Body Armor, and New Equipment.

Each section is then given to High-Tech or Ultra-Tech style equipment descriptions. Ken is a military guy, and knows a lot of this equipment from personal experience, I think (his bio has him deployed for OIF/OEF at MARCENT as a Planning Specialist). Each item has not only the relevant details, but some worthy chestnuts on use, abuse, and how the troops look at stuff.

Full Battle Rattle

Clothing, drink, food, identification, light, navigation, and timekeeping make up the section on Basic Gear. Mostly these are references to equipment already listed in GURPS High-Tech. The section on Personal Gear is just that, covering everything from a notebook and space pen to tools, video, and computer equipment. The bits on Special Issue are purpose-built for certain missions and needs, and include B&E tools, biometrics, IED jammers, and signaling, just to pick out a few. While many of these continue the pattern of simply referencing gear in the wildly-complete High-Tech, some reference the new equipment section of this article, so there’s a mix of old and new, but each piece of equipment is given a note on when and why it might be issued.

Finally, there’s a short section on the personalization that soldiers do with their stuff. From quick-pull loops on magazines, to how magazines might have three tracer bullets in a 30-round mag, to gun-cleaning and first-aid kits – it’s got some flavor and usage notes to read.


This gives flavor and composition on the various types of uniforms that troopers might use. From utility uniforms, to infantry utility clothing (largely distinguished by being flame-resistant and much more durable), to semi-formal digs when you need to dress to impress without resorting to formalwear.

Body Armor

Mostly a descriptive section, with references to pre-written (High-Tech) and new equipment introduced in the article. A lot of this is given to useful information about the protection vs. comfort/mobility tradeoff, as well as speculation on whether future typical insurgent/militia types will enjoy the same level of protection as modern Western troops.

Alternate rules for donning armor, fatigue (with a shout-out to The Last Gasp in a box-text on encumbrance, so thanks Ken!), and off-size armor for people of odd sizes and shapes are also covered briefly but effectively.

New Equipment

This bit has thirty new pieces of cool kit. Each gets a full High-Tech-style write up (much more efficient than, say, Gangnam Style). Nifty gear includes anti-sniper bullet detectors, a whole buncha new armor and helmets, a couple of drones and robots, a gaggle of lasers for various purposes, and detection and protection equipment. Clothing, too.

Ballistic’s Report

This is basically somewhere between a really nifty TL8-based expansion to High-Tech, or more accurately, a bit-by-bit publication of a Loadouts book using Pyramid as a vehicle instead of the usual e23 route. Given the slowdown in GURPS througput due to the Big Ass Ogre, this is probably a wise choice!

Content-wise, for games featuring modern Western-style soldiers, or TL8/9 blends so common in Sci-Fi military movies and TV (Aliens comes to mind), this stuff is a valuable extension and expansion for the genre.

Good stuff, and nice work.

All sorceresses have tattoos,
I guess, but this one had a map!

Today was Pathfinder, day, with +Jeromy French as GM, and +kung fu hillbilly and +Matt Sutton joining me as players. +Joshua Taylor and Evil Gimble was missing tonight.

I am going to unashamedly talk spoilers here, so be warned.

Last game ended with a combat, our tower had been attacked by quite a large force. We’d reinforced anyway, and as usual we played out the battle mostly with the teeming hordes of the bad guys in the background. We basically wound up chasing a sorceress around for a while, eventually killing her.

Turns out there was some interesting stuff tattooed on her back, which naturally Evil Gimble had flayed off and made into a nice portable map.

Hey! Something like this . . . but skin

Evil-aligned characters can get away with that sort of thing, and the rest of us neutral types mainly just make noises of “is that really necessary.”

Anyway, the map had a key bit on it, a bit of a puzzle-poem, which I won’t fully reproduce.

Nonetheless, Admiral Allejandro (Kung Fu Hillbilly’s bard) totally nailed every single Knowledge: Local and other Knows Trivia roll he was asked to make, so we were able to deduce the rough corner of the ocean we should visit.

It was only a week away, so we gathered up a crew, set sail, and headed out doing what pirates do: looking for buried treasure.

The area we arrived at reminded me instantly of somewhere I’ve seen before: the Big Blue Hole in Belize. Other than some typically odd vine structures which led us to decide that there was no way in hell we were taking our ship in there, we more or less did pretty well in figuring out where to go (it didn’t hurt that the critical

Perception roll to see man-sized caves was a 33). Anyway, we decided that we’d needed to wait until dawn to ensure we got the right place. We did, saw what we expected to see, figured out the final clue without die-rolling, and went spelunking. Or climbing, and then digging, and then falling, and then spelunking. And attacked by Sahuagin.

These are like Nazis to Indiana Jones: “Sahuagin. I hate these guys.”
“Sahuagin. I hate these guys.”

Anyway, thanks to the off-camera action of Evil Gimble, we had lots of potions to let us breathe underwater and give a nice bonus to Swim. So despite forgetting the Coral Crossbows we’d looted which work remarkably well underwater, we made fairly short work of five or so Sahuagin, taking a few minor wounds in the process.

Next week, Gimble will hopefully join us as we continue the dungeon crawl to look for the loot.

OK, so last post featured a note about a sorceress with tattoos.

No problem there. That seemed a good iconic image to search for.

So I went and did what I always do: hit Google for it. “Sorceress Tattoos images

So, I wind up picking this image of the iconic sorceress for Pathfinder: Seoni.

Here’s the trick, though. Go ahead and follow the link – but not at work.

I almost went with this one.  But, well, a lot of these are pretty much NSFW, and while I can appreciate cheesecake in many respects, I do try and keep this blog something that by and large I don’t have to turn off the screen when my preschool-aged daughter walks up.

This one is not too bad . . .

And seriously: is that dragon flying out of her butt?

Am I being overly prudish? Some of those images are quite nice, and might have fit even better than Seoni. But, on the other hand . . .

I like it when people come to visit. I love it when people make comments. I hope that the images make the posts more fun, alive, occasionally amusing, etc. And I think that eschewing stuff that might either get you sent straight to HR or having a too-early conversation with a young child is the right call. Do I overthink this one?

I’ve got another article in this month’s Pyramid magazine. Called “Dodge This,” it was the result of a long series of discussions between me and +Peter V. Dell’Orto about dodging firearms and bullets. It was somewhat a reaction to my experiences which led me to write The Occasional Silliness of Dodging Lasers, and the follow-up on “Lesser Silliness.”

Peter and I went back and forth quite a bit on structuring the article, and while I did a lot of the number crunching (it’s what I do), Peter is really good about making sure that things work in play. He’s also a big fan of minimizing the number of rolls and contests, so that play is minimally disrupted. So the article, though he basically said “it’s all you” and gave me sole credit, is as much his as mine.

With that, here was a quick summary of the issue that Ken Peters threw down on the GURPS Forums. I need to take the time to go over the entire issue myself and make my own comments. But in the meantime, I leave you with his words:

Modern Warfighter: Gear Slowly but surely you’ll be getting an entire book out of this 🙂 This article covers the non-weapon gear for a modern warfighter that currently doesn’t have an entry in the gear books. It also goes into some detail on military uniforms (I kept this very generic and rules legal) because that’s actually a rather interesting subject all by itself (this is kept very generic and I avoided US-centric absolutes when possible).
More information on body armor that extends Tactical Shooting? Check pp. 8-9 
Need stats for the Switchblade missile/UAV? That’s on p. 13 under Loitering Munition.
Curious about those barricades you see around bases and embassies? On p. 14 they are described under Multi-Cellular Defense Barriers.

What are the stats for modern FROG gear and other infantry uniforms? Check p. 8 easy peasy.

Canine tactical harnesses? See p. 11 my friend. I got it all covered.

The Devil’s ChariotThe very image of badass Russian hardware for decades: The Mi-24 Hind. Han’s left no detail unmentioned in this article, especially for applying this vehicle to a GURPS Actioncampaign.

The article covers the Mi-24V in detail, including information on the electronic warfare systems, what you can attach to the hardpoints, the flight controls, and even the seat layout (no graphics, unfortunately).

The guns obviously get the Han’s level of detail and there NINE new weapons with full stats and background information provided.

Curious as to what was contained on the survival gear of the crew? Did you know it had 20 water-purification tablets? Well now you do, because Hans has listed everything (with High-Tech page references). 

Eidetic Memory: Brock-Avery GunsThe manufacturer may be fictional, but the guns have detailed backgrounds and at least one is listed for every major era of play. The grave gun was particularly interesting and I had to look it up (yes, they really existed). A good example of how to take a theme and apply to something that is usually considered just an appliance.
BTW the mention of Transient Lunar Phenomena was pretty interesting. Need to see if I can get a database of those locations 🙂

Dodge ThisDouglas “Crunch King (in training)” Cole wrote this article to address the common question of “why is it so easy to dodge ranged attacks in GURPS?” After all, even in Rifts you have that -10 to dodge and that’s hardly a paragon of realism!
Well, he breaks it down for you. So complete is the article that I don’t really know what else to say. IF a player ever gripes about the dodge rules, especially the notes from Tactical Shooting, I’ll just print this off and hand it to them without saying a word. Maybe a grunt of command to actually read the entire thing.
What’s also interesting is that he extends the rules for Parry, Block and Dodge to cover all sorts of ranged attacks (and not just thrown weapons) – even spells!

The Nock Volley GunSometimes seen, never really described, this article is about a particularly interesting historical weapon ( That alone isn’t very exciting or novel, but what sells it are the optional rules that really spell out why this thing remains a historical artifact 🙂
I found the rules regarding the insane muzzle blast of this gun to be particularly noteworthy!

Magic BulletsNeed to put a diamond shard in your bullets to hunt that monster? This article has you covered, my friend. Obsidian cored rounds with a wolf tooth enamel coating? It’s just an order away!

This article extends the already voluminous list of “special loads” for bullets as seen in HorrorMonster Hunters, and Pulp Guns.

Random Thought Table: Make Each Shot CountHere Steven discusses using ammo itself as a pacing mechanism instead of just a largely forgotten bit of character sheet accounting. As he notes, many people approach this from a video game perspective where acquiring ammo is something you can do at a dead sprint with daemons spitting blood a footstep behind and you can casually load it even underwater or while on fire.

IMO this is one of the best Random Thought Tables in a long time, and I’m sure there will be a lot of GMs who get their eyes opened to these types of game balancing and plot pacing concepts.

Ballistic’s Report

I had a good time writing my own article. I won’t say that it just fell together, but Peter’s influence made itself felt in an entirely productive way. Not only did knowing I had a prospective co-author mean I buckled down and got my stuff done (I’m better with a deadline), but I sort of had to ask myself WWPD as well as WIWIP (would it work in play) more often than I usually do.

That probably means I asked it just less than I should.

I tend to write as a menu of options, fully endorsing what I feel is a core GURPS concept: “pick the rules you want, toss the rest.” Some of my options you might not like. Great! Ignore them. I write a lot of my rules articles to address issues that I see that bug me, but they might not bug everyone.

That Ken really liked my article is very gratifying, and I think that one of the reasons this article works (and rereading it, I do think it has a lot of goodness to it) is that it directly addresses an issue that, quite seriously, had every single player (including my wife) groaning about how unrealistic it was to just keep dodging laser beams. No amount of “but you’re dodging the line of fire” was going to make up for that.

So I knew there was something there, and the article on MECE applied to attack and defense rolls cinched it up: there were several options that might get it done.

From there, it was a matter of some clarifying discussion with Peter, a first draft, and then my usual suspects did the proofread and comment. I found so much utility in my Technical Grappling playtest that I try and hit up some of them, plus a few others, as often as I can to ensure I don’t miss important bits.

If you haven’t read the article, I’d certainly appreciate it if you would! If you have, I’d love to hear your thoughts – even if you thought it lacking.

Though the title is Melee Academy, being able to do harm at a distance is important in many genres. However, up until the invention of the windlass, cranequin, gunpowder, and fast-discharge supercapacitor, what you’re really doing is finding ways of translating your strength into injury.

Also on Melee Academy, Ranged Edition:

Peter Dell’Orto talks about Hitting the Wrong Target at Dungeon Fantastic
Mark Langsdorf Enters a Room over at No School Grognard
Christopher Rice will be talking Ritual Path Magic at Ravens N’ Pennies

For today’s Melee Academy, I thought I’d do weapon basics using only the GURPS Basic Set and segue a bit into Low-Tech, though I’ll predict that very little of substance, rather than variety, can be done.

A lot of the Melee Academy posts play in the Dungeon Fantasy space – 250 or so points. I’m going to restrict myself to about 150 points with about 40 points in Disadvantages and Quirks (about 25% of the starting total). In fact, I’ll mostly consider something like:

Attributes [120]
ST 13 [30]; DX 12 [40]; IQ 11 [20]; HT 12 [20]
HP 13; Will 12 [5]; Per 12 [5]; FP 12
Basic Lift 34; Damage 1d/2d-1
Basic Speed 6; Basic Move 6; Ground Move 6; Water Move 1

Advantages [35]
Combat Reflexes [15]
Enhanced Dodge (1) [15]
Fit [5]

Disadvantages [-35]; Quirks [-5]

Skills [35]
Axe/Mace (A) DX+1 [2]-12; Bow (A) DX+4 [16]-16; Climbing (A) DX-1 [1] -11; Fast-Draw (Arrow) (E) DX+2* [2]-14; Fast-Talk (A) IQ-1 [1]-10; First Aid/TL3 (Human) (E) IQ+0 [1]-11; Hiking (A) HT+0 [2]- 12; Naturalist (Earth) (H) IQ-2 [1]-9; Observation (A) Per+0 [2]-12; Running (A) HT-1 [1]-11; Stealth (A) DX-1 [1]-11; Swimming (E) HT+0 [1]- 12; Tracking (A) Per+0 [2]- 12; Wrestling (A) DX+0 [2]- 12.

This clearly isn’t the only or the best 150-point ranged weapons guy. In fact, there are lots of things you could choose to do otherwise. But I wanted to give an example with most of the skills GURPS Line Editor and long-time player +Sean Punch and GM recommends as Adventuring Basics. And I wanted sufficient goodness in basic stats to account for things like Per and Will being things you may need to roll against, a decent Move and Encumbrance, and enough ST and DX to be considered a well-rounded party member who has a chance to actually injure foes.  

More on that later. 

Still, you can see that the perhaps archetypical ranged weapon type, the archer, has Bow-16. Given my previous writings on the subject, that’s probably about where you’d want to be.

Of course, lose the +1 to Dodge and you can be Bow-19 and still have three points to spare. You can also ditch Combat Reflexes and Fit in favor of, say, Heroic Archer if your GM allows it. Infinite options, but that awesome Bow skill comes at the cost of being good at anything else. Because drawing out ammo and loading the bow are a combination of Fast-Draw and Bow skills, you’ll want decent levels of both.

And you need that skill, if you’re shooting a bow. Remember, with Bow-16, without aiming you can only hit the vitals 50% of the time with your foe at 7 yards. Almost certainly, then, if you want to hit to anything like distance, you need to compromise your versatility as above, or accept limitations on what you can do. Ranged attacks pile up penalties faster than anything else in GURPS.

Basic Principles of Mail-order Pain

So, you want to hurt people from a distance? That’s smart. Sometimes that “up close and personal” thing gets nasty. Still, you’re going to have to decide a few things.

The first one is, what’s your schtick? Are you a dedicated ranged weapons guy? That means you’re going to need a weapon that fires ammunition, or for which you can carry a sufficient number to make it through a combat and then recover them afterwards.

Are you using ranged weapons as an entry into melee? In that case, you have less to worry about in terms of lather, rinse, repeat, which is good. But that also means you’re going to be blowing your cash on defenses and offenses for melee, so you might not be that good at your weapon.

Bring the Hurt

There are two basic choices when it comes to ranged weapons. Those that do swing damage, and those that do thrust. From the Basic Set, here are the weapon classes. A typical value for 1/2D range as a multiple of ST is given as well in parentheses.

Thrust-based Ranged Weapons: Bolas (x3), Bows (x15), Crossbows (x20), Harpoons (x1), Knives (x0.5), Shuriken (x0.5), and Spears (x1).

Swing-based Ranged Weapons: Slings (x12 with bullets!), Atlatls (x2), and Axes and Maces (x1).

The blowpipe is the odd man out. It’s damage is fixed. Other oddities include lassos and nets, whose purpose is more grappling than injury.

There are, perhaps oddly, no real trends here. For weapons that use ammo (slings and bows/crossbows) at ST 13 without perks like Strongbow (which you should totally take, along with Arm ST 2, if you can free up 11 points) you’re looking at 1d+1 imp to 195 yards with a regular bow, and 2d pi to 156 yards with a sling.

Of course and again: unless you are taking many seconds to Aim, your practical range limit to the torso for many of these weapons will be less than 100 yards, often much less.

What’s Not Worth It?

For the dedicated ranged guy, where you intend to stay at range, certain things are totally not worth it. Bolas are only cool for the optional grapple. Knives and shuriken are neat tricks, but with paltry damage and range, are for show, not for real. Most of the rest – other than bows, crossbows, slings, and atlatls with darts – are too heavy to consider carrying more than a few of them. Five throwing hatchets weigh 10 lbs., and can only reach to 20 or so yards at 1/2D . . . though you’ll be doing 2d-1 cut  for each, which will punch through DR 4 mail and do 3 injury or more 50% of the time.

What IS Worth it?

And that’s really the trick of it when bows are concerned. If you can afford the $900 it takes to buy a composite bow, you can do 1d+3 imp, which will punch through that DR 4 85% of the time, and on an average hit will do 4-6 injury. You can also target the vitals, which pushes that to 6-9 injury (but you need the skill for it).

The other real runner up is the sling, which ramps up with your ST faster than bows. ST 13 with lead bullets is 2d pi compared to a regular bow’s 1d+2 imp, but ST 19 is a thunderous 3d+2 pi, compared to 2d+1 imp. Against unarmored folks, for average ST and higher, the imp damage type wins. For our test character of ST 13 through ST 15, the sling has a very minor injury advantage over the bow at DR5+ (both top out and do basically nothing at DR 6+).

One interesting thing about a sling: the damage really is ST-based, rather than the ST of the bow. All-Out Attack (Strong) for +1 per die or +2 damage might be available for slings (I’d allow it).

I think these two are a wash, though the availability of multiple arrow types (such as the (2) pi bodkin, as well as cutting arrows) probably edge the general win to the bow. Not by a lot, though.

Now, on the “fire and forget” end, you have some interesting choices, one of which is an atlatl throwing javelins. It hits 1/2D at 26 yds, but even at ST 13 does 2d imp at that range. All the awesomeness of the imp damage type, with the penetration of a .45 ACP. A particularly strong specimen, such as ST 17, is doing 3d imp, which is equivalent to a ST 21 crossbow (though much lower range).

Another interesting choice is the 4-lb. throwing axe. Thrown or swung in-hand, it does sw+2 cut, or 2d+1 cut for ST 13. You probably can’t carry very many, but you can wield one in each hand, chuck one, and continue. Range is less than 15 yards, which likely gives you one hit, then you’re in melee. But that first hit will do 6 injury through DR 4 mail, and probably push the recipient to All-Out Defense his next turn.

+Rob Conley reminds me in the comments section that the classic fire-and-forget tactic is the Really High ST Crossbow. It might take nine years to reload, but at thr+4, a ST 21+ crossbow is nasty. It’ll do 3d or more equivalent impaling damage, and can target the vitals. It’s an Easy skill, which means you can literally hit from 50% farther away right off the bat, and it has a higher Aim stat than any other basic ranged weapon. He calls it the Knight Killer, and he’s right. This is a weapon you give to a whole line of melee-ready friends, fire off one volley, then charge in. But that volley can be incredibly dangerous vs. any creature vulnerable to impaling damage.


Really, you’re going to want to be hiding behind someone here. Ideally a lot of someones, with Shield Wall training and Sacrificial Block. Your own #1 worry is other ranged types for the first instance, and a clear field of running that a Dodge Monkey can exploit to close within your effective range. While DF Heroic Archers can do melee combat with their bows, most real-world specimens cannot do this. So unless you’re a spear or axe guy throwing spears or axes, you’re going to lose your primary attack mode unless you are kept safe.

If you’re a 150-point character, you might look into hiring a Guard template from Dungeon Fantasy 15: Henchmen (p. 21) with Sacrificial Block and Shield Wall Training, and (say) Spear and Shield modified to give Spear-11 but Shield-14. That will give you someone with Large Shield (DB+3) who has Block-13 and a Reach 1,2 weapon to help deter pesky melee types.

Finally, you may want to just realize that most of your fighting will be at 30 yards and less. So plan on a maximum of -7 due to range (but try and keep at least 15 yards, or -5, so you have time to run the hell away if someone starts to chase you down) and offset that with Aim if you can.

Rapid Fire specialists are expensive, though. If you need to eat a -7 from range, -3 for vitals, and -3 for Quick-Shooting (and have bought Heroic Archer, Weapon Master, or TBaM to halve that -6 to -3), and still want a 90% chance to hit, you’re looking at needing an effective Bow-27 to pull that off. Yow.

Parting Shot

A “normal” ranged weapon specialist is a hard niche to fill in GURPS at low point values. You tend to be quite the specialist, though with clever choices you can be a very, very good specialist. You’ll want to discuss this with your fellow players, though – one of the ways to get to the kind of skill (Bow-18 and higher, for example) you need to be effective, often, at decent range is to give up nearly everything else.

In practice, you will be shooting infrequently, so you’ll want to make those hits count. Otherwise, go the other way, and grab enough skill to use a heavy thrown or launched weapon that does swing damage a few times, then charge into melee.

This is a combined report of the last two sessions. On hand were +Nathan Joy (GM), +Emily Smirle , +Theodore Briggs , +Mark Langsdorf , and +Kevin Smyth.

Last time, we basically headed out for Tian, journeying north for an epic trek across the frozen top of the world. We got ambushed in a narrow passage, with a 100′ tall cliff of ice and snow to the south, and a frozen fast-moving river to the north. I recall we only had perhaps ten yards of flat ground at the bottom.

We triggered it ourselves, I recall. We thought “obvious place for an ambush,” and Thumvar, I think, was close on hand and probably caused the creature (a three-headed chimera) to trigger his trap, which was a very wide avalanche!

The avalanche raced down the cliff, and those of us in the zone beat feat (on horses) to escape the zone. Well, those of us who could not fly.

That was a bit of a tense moment. Dawn made some epic Light Walk rolls to run up the face of the tumbling snow, and Shiba and Cadmus did a lot of steering horses through a bad snowfall. All in all, we handled that well. Then we noted a horde of undead frozen guys coming for us.

This failed to impress Cadmus.

Thumvar and Staver made really short work of the chimera, since they injured its wing as it made a dive, causing it to face-plant into the turf (leaving a giant blood smear on the map) after a 30-yard full-speed stoop. Splat.

The undead? Yeah, they ran after us in clusters. Cadmus got close to each group and set them on instant-flambe with Smite. One almost dangerous moment was when one leaped up behind me on my saddle, but Shiba shot him down with his bow.

At no real point was the encounter terribly tense, but in fairness, we rolled very well, did a whole bunch of really epic stuff that worked, and we did control the encounter by triggering the ambush ourselves. Actually acted like the bunch of 340-ish point characters we were. Ultimately, the avalanche and river were likely the most serious threats here.

The next session was a whole lot of journeying, followed by a stop at a town that I will not attempt to get right. Uquiqo? Anyway, the entire thing is carved out of rock at the base of a towering ice wall. We are met, offered hospitality that we got to roleplay through (few of us speak the language), and eventually are told three or four salient facts:

  • They were surprised that we did not get attacked and eaten by a White Dragon that has been plaguing the area.
  • The flesh-destroying winter storms never come down as far south as they have at this time of the year
  • Strange black pillars and undead have been seen on the high plains; they think the storms might be related. Or we think the storms might be related.

We’re thus sure we needed to be here, since we have dragons, undead, and flesh-eating storms. Must be Tuesday.

Then a crazy old priest of the winds starts yelling at us from outside. We step out, initially thinking dragon-attack, but it’s just a torch-and-pitchforks party against us, the faithless strangers.

We try a group Intimidate, which doesn’t work very well. Cadmus, not amused at being described as Faithless, calls on a visage of Pharasma (invokes Holy Glory), which does, in fact, knock nearly all the bystanders (and Staver) either down or wobbly. The priest disappears in Body of Air. A massive warrior approaches, his guards start tossing civilians around, and we get ready for a fight.

He then has a spectacular argument (of the non-violent kind) with his wife, our host. Ah, a domestic thing. We back off, and our host sadly tells us we need to sleep outside.

Brrr. That’s going to be cold.

Cadmus starts to pray for some guidance and warmth and to make Staver smell less bad. He keeps getting distracted, though, and bemusedly walks, praying loudly and confusing the hell out of his companions, towards a cliff face, which seems to have a line through it that no one else can see.

He reaches out and touches it, and it opens, revealing a passage and tunnel to the high cliff above.

We end there, and at least we know that if God tells us to climb the stairs, paraphrasing the immortal words of Bill Murray: “We go up.”

Here was a bit cut out of the upcoming GURPS: Technical Grappling. There are several reasons.

  1. It’s a grappling book, not a striking book
  2. I was using Size Modifier as a direct proxy for height. That’s wrong.
  3. First See Rule #1.
I also found this excised portion of the rules terribly complicated, and we ditched the concept of grappling “regions” of the body in favor of using regular hit locations. All in all, it was a good cut, but see later for why I even bother to bring it up now!

Continue reading “Falling Down – head kicking for fun and profit in GURPS”

Over on the forums, Icelander asked if anyone had ever converted slings to a system like the one I used to do The Deadly Spring:

Has anyone had any luck modelling slings in a slightly more plausible manner than the current one?Can one plug them into Douglas Cole’s The Deadly Spring in any way?
                                                                                                  – Icelander

I’ve not seen anything like that, but if I were to do it, here’s what would happen.

The key bit to model this is a calculation that would turn ST, skill, and lever arm (for sling vs. staff sling) into energy somehow. Then we could turn that fairly easily into damage.

For range, you’d take the weight of the stone and figure a velocity, and from that work out the likely arc.

We could potentially adjust penetration up slightly as a function of smaller projectile diameter, as for bullets, perhaps even using the same function (or a simplified version) of that used in my old ballistics article.

So, let’s start there . . .


The trick would really be getting some estimate of, for a given energy of impact, what armor DR could be penetrated. That would give you a baseline from which to adjust damage as a function of impact energy.

The site I usually go to for slinging seems to suggest that the staff sling (presumably a six-foot pole and a 1-yardish sling vs a roughly 1-yard sling) only increases velocity – and thus in GURPS, damage – by perhaps 10-20%. The staff seems to get longer range through the higher start point.

However, I looked around a bit, and Chris Harrison presented some numbers that suggested sling bullets could hit as fast as 90 m/s.

That’s a lot more than the 38 m/s provided by a staff sling in Richardson’s website. I will admit I find 90 m/s somewhat optimistic, but some of the ranges claimed by slingers (and the actual Guiness Book world record of over 437m with a 52g projectile from a 51″ sling) suggest an impressive ability. Using a simple trajectory calculator, this could be achieved at a 45-degree release angle at just above 65m/s (no air resistance), or as little as a 16 degree angle at 90 m/s.

Let’s assume a 50g projectile at 75 m/s, then. That’s about 140J and an effective diameter on the order of 18.5mm.

Penetration by my firearms model would be 1d (3.5pts) and the wound modifier would be north of 3.6, so if we call it 1d pi++ that probably understates the impact a bit.

Right. That guy.

I’d suggest an armor multiplier vs rigid armor, though. Probably (0.5) or even more.

For the 30-40m/s and 28g that Thom Richardson usually throws down, you’d be in the neighborhood of 1.2 points on the average; call it 1d-2 pi++

So if the higher-end limits are to be believed, against an unarmored man, you would look at an average of about 3.5*3.5 = 12 points, with an upper end on the order of 21 points, enough to reduce an average man to -HP in one shot at the extreme, and KO him on the average with a “torso” hit. That breaks the RAW max of pi++ for GURPS, though. more rationally, you’d only approach the upper end on a vitals hit. Possible that David spent a few Destiny points to buy a critical success.

I was thinking 90m/s was pretty darn optimistic, and certainly “world record” is upper end. But it does suggest that imparting such energy is feasible (and a strong bow is on that order as well).

GURPSifying the Calculations

What I might do as a start is to take the user’s ST, and increase it based on relative skill level, as I did in my article The Last Gasp through the concept of the “Training Bonus.”

You’ll see that again hopefully Real Soon Now. 🙂

Anyway, if relative skill level provides an increase in ST and a staff sling increases that further by 20%, what you probably have is something like

Damage = Constant * ST * Skill Multiplier * Staff Multiplier

So let’s say that our world record was set by someone with a sport-specific ST of 20 or so, with a 50% skill modifier, giving him a net ST 30. That’s a lot, but hey, world record.
That basically says, in round numbers, take the net ST and divide by 8 to get points of damage, or by 30 to get dice.
Let’s take a more-usual warrior type. ST 12, from a default (-30% ST!) would be about 0.28d, or 1 point on the average. 1d-3, with zero being a possibility. 
Train that guy up to DX, and you’re at about 1.4 points of damage, which is about 1d-2. Get him up to DX+4 and give him the equivalent of Arm ST +2 for special exercises, and a staff sling, and you’re ST 14 * 1.2 * 1.2 = ST 18.5, or 2.35 points, somewhere about 1d-1.
You’re not doing a lot of damage here.
Projectile Weight and Range

The thing is here, much with bows, there’s going to be an “optimum” weight stone that gets you the most delivered energy. Too heavy, and you can’t get it to max V. Too light, and you waste energy that you can’t couple into the projectile.
So if Mr. Effective ST 30 can fling a sling into the ring at 437m (475yds), figuring max range at about 16x your effective ST would be a quickie estimate.
Our typical guy at roughly ST 12? 134 yards. Practiced warrior with DX+4, Arm ST +2, and effective ST 18.5 would be just shy of 300 yds.
Parting Shots

This turned rapidly into an exercise in game mechanics. ST, skill multipliers to ST, and flat multipliers to effective ST for range.
Still, that might not be all bad. Basic Lift is related to the square of ST, and is a force (pounds). If energy is more or less a force times a distance – some sort of arc over which that force is applied – then the square root of energy is related to ST, and the square root of energy is how GURPS measures penetration. So a flat ST basis with multipliers is reasonably physics-based, and makes for easier math.
We handwave projectile size and weight quite a bit here. Still, if our ST 9 slinger vs our ST 30 slinger might be tossing stones with mass proportional to the effective ST you can deliver, perhaps. That would put Joe Casual at about 15 g (probably too light), Mr Warrior at 31g (almost exactly the historical average of about an ounce, or 28g), and Mr Expert at 50g or so. Just to figure out how much lead you have to haul around.


Bronco makes a nice point below, and if you don’t click on the comments, here are my thoughts after his note about the severity of the impact, as well as that the ancient guys would inscribe their sling stones with personal messages to their foes:

Yeah, I’d forgotten about the inscription thing. I should have linked to a picture of a missile with nose art, though a quick google didn’t find any (wrong terms, I’m sure).
Having the penetration be based on swing damage means that at an effective ST 14, you equal the penetration of a .45 ACP, and in a practical case matches a .380 ACP in both penetration and wounding.

The 50g sling stone at 90m/s can be compared relatively to a 145g baseball at 45m/s – a war stone compared to a major-league fastball. It’s got 1/3 the mass, but 2x the velocity. So the stone has 4/3 more energy but 2/3 the momentum . . . and a much smaller diameter. So the tendency to break stuff (and people) will be on that same order – perhaps a bit more by up to half, I’d hazard, but not a LOT more.

Still, getting beaned by a major-league (100mph fastball) is No Fun, and due to the smaller diameter and higher density of the stone, should be more likely to break stuff.
I think this is another case where the damage should be relatively large, crushing rather than piercing, but mitigated with a HT roll. 

GURPS Martial Arts has a neat little (highly optional) box on minute differences between melee weapons when it comes to various combat activities, such as Stop Hits, Feints, and Fast-Draw contests.

There was a question that showed up from Landwalker over on the SJG Forums about combining ‘A Matter of Inches’ (Martial Arts, p. 110) with my article on Setup Attacks from Pyramid #3/52 called Delayed Gratification.

The Setup Attack replaces the Feint mechanism with a variant on an actual attack, that requires an actual defense.

Let’s see what reviewing the box shows us, then.

Swing vs. Thrust

Swung weapons are slower and thus harder to successfully alter or recover from. This could be expressed as one or more of the following.

  1. The setup is harder to launch effectively. Take a larger penalty (perhaps an extra -1) to your hit roll
  2. The setup is easier to defend against. Your foe gets a bonus to defend against it (again, +1, but that makes it equivalent to -2 on the attack, which might be too much).
  3. The follow-on attack is harder. When you follow a Setup with a swing, you get -1 to hit.
  4. The follow-on defense is easier. +1 to defend vs. the follow-up attack, but this has the same issues as #2.
I think, overall, I like #3. The setup is whatever it is, but it’s harder to reposition quickly to get the next blow in. So if you choose to follow up a Setup with a swung attack, you are at -1 to hit.

Weapon Weight (relative to your ST)

Perfect illustration from Rimfrost

This applies to pretty much everything that would use a Quick Contest, but with Setup Attacks, the QCs become real attacks. So:

  1. Either on Setups (and defending from them; they’re not secret) you apply this same penalty or bonus directly to both user’s skill (and in this case, I’d round in favor of the defender), or
  2. Apply half the difference in penalties to the Setup Attack penalty if it’s successful. Round as you choose – if you want weapon weight to matter less, round down. If you want these differences to have more impact, round up
This one makes me more nervous, since especially with #1, this is getting perilously close to having a penalty to skill based on weapon weight for all attacks and defenses. Now, I’m not averse to that! It makes sense in a lot of ways. But you better be prepared for the consequences, as it plays directly with character conception. If “I want to use a big sword” is suddenly nerfed because you only bought enough to barely get over the MinST and now you effectively don’t have the skill to wield it like you want, that’s going to piss people off.

Weapon Weight (absolute)

This speaks to Beats and parries vs. heavy weapons. The second part can apply as-is to Setups, since a Setup is an attack. For Beats . . . let me get back to that one.

Weapon Length

I don’t think this should matter in Setups. Having a longer weapon does not allow you to draw a foe out of position better, though it might be harder to reposition after said setup due to lever arm. So maybe ignore differences within weapon reach categories, but perhaps the longer weapon takes a -1 to skill on the attack or defense for each extra yard of length or something. This might only apply to swung attacks as well; spears are notoriously fast, despite being long.

Beat It

The question of Beats on Setups is natural and interesting. It should fall out fairly easily in the execution of the attack. Instead of launching a Setup as-is, perhaps you throw a (Deceptive) Attack at the weapon itself.

So, you attack the weapon, targeting it at the usual penalties (tiny weapons are harder, longer ones easier). If you do this as a Deceptive Attack, and the penalty lowers the foe’s Parry as usual.

The defender has three choices:


He may attempt to pull himself completely out of reach. This is a straight-up dodge roll, including DB from shields, etc. as normal. If he succeeds, the attack misses completely. If he fails, the attack hits the weapon squarely. Treat this as a failed parry (below).


He may also flick his weapon out of the way. This is resolved as a “Dodge-based parry.”

  • Take the relative skill level of your weapon, plus any bonuses that might apply from “A matter of inches” above. Divide this by two, rounding away from zero.
  • Retreat only provides +1 instead of +3, like a Parry
  • DB from shields, armor, or anything but the weapon does not apply (a sword enchanted somehow to provide +1 DB or +1 to Parry would still count).
  • Since Dodge already includes Combat Reflexes, there’s no need to count it twice!
  • Take any adds to damage based on the weapon

Example: A ST 14 duellist with Rapier at DX+5 and Dodge-10 and a +1 due to relative ST with his weapon is being attacked by a foe trying to Beat his weapon aside. He elects to try and flick his weapon out of the way. His Relative Skill Level is adjusted up to DX+6 based on the adjustment from “A Matter of Inches,” and that is halved to +3. This boosts his “Dodge-based Parry” that is the Disengage from 10 to 13. However, his Rapier does thr+1 damage, which gives a -1 penalty, for a net of Disengage 12. If he retreats, he gains +1, giving Disengage-13.

If the disengage fails, your foe strikes the weapon squarely, as with a failed true parry. If it succeeds, the Beat is avoided.

Force on Force: True Parries

Finally, he may meet force with force by utilizing his true Parry (again, DB from shields does not count).

Successful Attacks

If the hit roll is successful, roll damage for the attack as usual. This damage will be applied to the weapon regardless of whether the defender’s parry is successful or not! That’s the risk the defender takes meeting the blow force-on-force (but see Sliding the Blow, below).

Successful Parries

If the parry is successful, the defender rolls swing-based damage, adding the largest bonus the weapon can have in any attack mode (a Halberd, p. B272, has three modes, and thus rolls sw+5, the highest mode). Bonuses from Weapon Master or other adds definitely count! A rapier, which usually only has a thr+1 mode, would roll sw+1 for absorbing damage in this case.

Subtract this roll from the attacker’s roll. Any remaining damage applies a penalty to the foe’s Parry until the end of his next turn.

Example: Our ST 14 duelist attempts to meet a naginata swing from a ST 17 foe force-on-force. The incoming blow hits the weapon, and rolls 3d+1 for 13 points of damage. The duelist succeeds in his parry, and lowers the penalty by rolling swing-based damage himself: 2d+1, and lowers it by 9! Still, the remaining damage imparts -4 to the duelist’s Parry until the end of his next turn. Additionally, the blow hits the sword, whose DR 6 lowers the incoming damage to “only” 7 points. A rapier only has 11 HP, so the sword is reduced to 4 HP, which is not lower than 1/3 it’s HP . . . but it’s getting close. One more such “success” and the rapier will be useless.

Failed Parries

If the foe fails his parry, the attacker strikes his weapon squarely. Roll damage and apply it to the weapon normally.

Also, the blow knocks the weapon out of alignment. The defender takes a -1 to Parry for every point of damage delivered until the end of his next turn. This penalty is lowered by 1 for every 2 points of ST by which the defender’s ST exceeds the MinST of his weapon (the ST Margin). If the penalty to Parry exceeds the user’s Skill/2, it is Unready. If the defender critically failed his Parry, he is disarmed.

Example: Our ST 14 duelist tries again to meet another swing from the naginata. The incoming blow hits the weapon, and rolls 3d+1 for 12 points of damage. This time, the duelist fails his parry roll, and is thus at -12 to Parry. Unless our duelist has Rapier-24 or higher, his weapon is rendered Unready. Once again, the blow hits the sword, suffering 6 points of damage, lowering the HP of his poor blade from 4 HP down to -2 HP. The sword is now disabled, and a quick check on p. B485 shows that a 1d roll is called for: a roll of 2 shows that the blade breaks at the halfway mark and is now Reach 1, instead of 1,2 . . . and now only does crushing damage. Rapiers do not parry polearms well.

Sliding the Blow

Very skilled wielders can partially mitigate the damage done by accepting a penalty to their Parry. For each -1 to Parry, reduce the damage inflicted by a successful blow by 1 point.

This will only get you so far.

Parting Shot

This suggested tweak to the rules takes Delayed Gratification, A Matter of Inches, and the various rules for Beat, Knocking a Weapon Away, and weapon breakage and slams them all together until fusion occurs.

Guess we’ll see if we have produced more energy than we used! Evaluating my own work, I think the weakest link is the disengage rule, where I wanted to have skill matter on a Dodge-type roll. That one could use some testing, and maybe tweaking.


I wrote about a logjam of GURPS that was pending, right? And Pyramid being awesome GURPSiness?

Well, check out the GURPS News. Excerpts from +Sean Punch‘s update (the text in green are his words, copied from the GURPS News) , with a focus on release dates:

With other GURPS material biding its time, it seems appropriate to remind everyone that each monthly issue of Pyramid is a bona fide GURPS supplement. Certainly, it’s sold as a ‘zine, and you can even subscribe. That doesn’t change the fact that it’s 100% official GURPS support, and enjoys the same love and attention as the rest of the game.
Which isn’t to say that we aren’t hard at work on more publications with “GURPS” on the front. Really, we haven’t been slacking off! Here are just some of the projects in the queue. As usual, this is a list of wild-eyed guesses, its order and ETAs subject to change if a butterfly flaps its wings on the Plateau of Leng:

  • Pyramid will continue, of course. Steven Marsh has July’s issue in editing, August’s well in hand, and the three after that just about filled.
  • My most recent major project – Zombies – is enjoying excellent art progress. We might even see the PDF released on e23 before end of summer 2013, though the printed version is further out.
  • Phil Masters and I have finished our review of the preliminary PDFs of his Discworld Roleplaying Game. Much of the art is in already, and the company has elevated this item to a Priority, which may well mean seeing it in 2013.
  • David T. Moore’s Banestorm: Martial Arts is very close to ready . . . in fact, the main thing left to do is decide whether we want to use that title or one that isn’t the titles of two other books mooshed together.
  • Douglas Cole’s Martial Arts: Technical Grappling is next in line for art. Advanced rules for twisting your foes into pretzels could appear before end of summer 2013.
  • Michele Armellini’s Locations: St. George’s Cathedral is getting art, too, so the Locations series might just see a growth spurt before winter 2013.
  • Bill Stoddard’s Thaumatology: Chinese Elemental Powers – which supports both Thaumatology and Powers – also seems plausible for autumn or winter 2013.
  • David Chart’s Transhuman Space: Wings of the Rising Sun is still on target for 2013, if the art situation holds steady.
  • Hans-Christian Vortisch’s High-Tech: Adventure Guns should be out in time to let you restock your armory before 2014.
  • Dan Howard’s Loadouts: Low-Tech Armor also has art deadlines set, but currently looks more like an early 2014 proposition.
  • Ken Hite’s Horror: The Madness Dossier is in editing, so it’s a little further out than all of the above.

Needless to say, with my book finally pending, and possibly by the “end of the Summer 2013,” this is most excellent news!