Peter posted a note on who’s doing play reports on Dungeon Fantasy games. In the comments section, +Mark Langsdorf notes that my play reports for +Nathan Joy‘s Jade Regent game were sporadic. +Peter V. Dell’Orto noted that he mostly saw me posting on Pathfinder, which I play with +Jeromy French and others.

I thought about that, and came to a conclusion on why:

The Pathfinder game uses Google Hangouts, webcams, and Roll20. This means most of my actions are verbal. “Pel notes that he’s going down the hall.” “I attack the bug-eyed fish monster.” Whatever.

This means that my fingers are mostly not occupied except while I am typing in roll commands into the die roller. I can transcribe, almost blow-for-blow, what’s going on in the background and still uphold my obligations to the group by being an active participant in the fun.

On the GURPS game, we play on MapTool with Skype, all chat, all the time. In order to keep up with what’s going on, I have to keep close tabs on two different chat windows. I therefore have a harder time doing real-time transcription, and thus often don’t get around to going back to it retroactively. Time is precious, etc. Everything I do is text, so when I’m interacting in the OOC window or the game window, I’m not transcribing.

I honestly much prefer the video feed. I find it more social, more fun, and more like the gaming experience I wish to have. I do prefer MapTool to Roll20 for GURPS, by far – actually, I like the MT abilities a lot, and the provided critical hit stuff and the way it does rolls works well for GURPS.

But anyway, that’s the skinny. I’m sure I could scour the game chatlogs and turn it into a play report. No interest in that. I like my free-form commentary. So the Jade Regent reports will continue to be sporadic.

Alas.

Last time in +Jeromy French ‘s Skull and Shackles campaign was a pretty epic fight with a mummy that had killed a lot of Pathfinders, and that had a amulet that allowed it to convert good energy (which really should kill it) into healing dark energy. Oops. We killed it, but it was a close thing.

***

Today’s adventure starts with us becoming aware of a huge ship that moored itself at the river mouth that our vessel had sailed up, blocking our exit. It’s a large warship with actual cannon on it.

+Matt Sutton dispatches his flying (swimming?) minion with telepathy-o-vision. It’s a huge ship, with many dozens of people on it. They’ll be getting water in the morning.

Our resident alchemist, +Joshua Taylor notes he has potions of Alter Self, and comes up with a ruse to make people try and leave, so we can slip by. Naturally, there are dinosaurs on the island. Important safety tip. Oh, and the potions only last 10 minutes. Hrm.

Next idea: sail by quietly, but cause as much havoc as possible as we try and slip by. We contemplate cutting the pulley system connecting the wheel to the rudder. Gotta involve fire somehow too, and an actual powder magazine is going to be hard to pass up.

We decide to send Pel (me) aboard with some potions of Alter Self, making me look more like a Chilaxian. I get on board late at night, make a quick trip to the wheel pulley mechanism, then out.

At least, that’s the plan. I am given a few Alter Self potions, a Wand of Nature’s Ally, three vials of Alchemist’s Fire, and a two-part epoxy called alchemical glue. Also a climbing aid. And a vial of brewed rot. Really foul smelling stuff.

I roll a natural 20 on my stealth roll, for a 33, and a 19 with the climbing aid gives me a 36. I spot an easy way into the wheelhouse room.

I climb into the wheelhouse, and do not make the two people sitting there aware of my presence. These pirate hunters are a nuisance, but they’re not so numerous or powerful that it’s worth uniting the shackles to counter them.

I elect to split a Rapid Shot sneak attack on each one, which crits on the first shot, and nearly kills – but not all the way – the second guy.

The officer turns and nails me with an axe for mild damage. I split shots again, and kill the second guy. The officer and I trade a couple shots, and I eventually kill him, but until he lets out a shout.

I saw at the rope until marines open the door, and then I chuck the bottle of nauseating rot at them. Next round I chuck the alchemists fire at the wheelhouse pulleys; the marine swings at me ineffectually.

Now Pel is faced with three angry marines, and the need to hit the rope one more time. I loose two arrows at my assailants, one miss, one hit.

One marine slips on the vomit of the other’s sickness and falls down, the second and third both swing cutlasses at me. One miss, one hit, minimal damage. I draw my rapier and cut through the remaining rope. One nicks me, and I dive through the window. Alas, my plans to fire the powder magazine will never come to fruition. I drink a Potion of the Sea and then climb back onto my own ship as it sails by.

The larger warship fires a few ballista bolts at us, but no real impact. I’m down to less than half of my HP, having been hit for 23 HP in the battle; the other ship rapidly finds they can’t steer.

I give Alejandro ( +kung fu hillbilly)   his wand back; he’d despaired of it’s return when I started fighting five other guys. I get some healing (back up to 26/36).

We replenish our water stores, and sail around for a while. We notice a fishing trawler with loose sails, and a fishing net that’s not fishing. No occupants, and it’s clearly taking on water. Malgrim sends his water serpent, Atori, to check it out, and finds a coral “underwater magical carpet” just hovering there, that scraped out the bottom (Pel guesses). There are some sea creatures (Sahuagin) gnawing on human remains as well.

But hmmm, the coral thing is magical. Naturally we decide to check it out and try and kick some fish ass. There look to be five of these guys.

Malgrim steps on board the fishing trawler, and they jump up through hatches on the deck; naturally Malgrim uses Cleave to hack at both, the first for 3d6+10 damage, nailing him with 20 HP in one blow. Second guy gets the same treatment. A good start.

Atori the water snake bites and misses.

Alejandro’s up, and also pierces his foe decisively. Only minimal damage. Pel’s turn, attacks a different sahuaguin twice for 8 HP.

Our foes attack Alejandro, to no good purpose. Gimble ( +Joshua Taylor) chucks a firebomb at one, forcing Alejandro to dodge, making a DC 15 reflex save, as well as the other two fishmen. Alejandro burns for 6 HP.

Malgrim steps up and rolls another killing blow, but misses the cleave; the snake successfully chomps the remainder, killing the last one.

Gimble uses a magic weapon to push Alejandro into the water with a hydropump to extinguish him. The bard is not amused. He also grabs the magical coral raft while he’s at it.

For loot, the coral raft/carpet/thing there’s some small amount of treasure. Some jewelry and whatnot. A bunch of wet dried fish (huh?). The magic underwater carpet responds to Aquan, so Alejandro can command the thing. Can fit 5 people on it. Woo hoo.

We then, a few days later, come across another pirate vessel grappled to another ship, which is currently on fire. There’s active combat going on here. A confused situation that we can exploit.

Perhaps next time.

Thursday is GURPS-day, and so here’s today’s entry:

This one isn’t really navelgazing. I wrote The Last Gasp for a few specific reasons, and I thought I’d share a bit of how the article came about.

First, I’ve been a bit – frustrated is too strong a word – but at least a bit twitchy about the perceived, and maybe acutal, need to do something every damn turn in GURPS combats. There are relatively few incentives to evaluate, pause, or otherwise keep your distance from your opponent once a fight is joined.

Sure, you can use a Wait and Evaluate strategy before you really close to your desired striking range. But once you get within your range, there’s really only a few instances where taking even one turn to gather your wits is a decent thing to do.

The first is to interrupt death spirals of various kinds. If you can back off for a turn after getting thumped, you avoid the shock penalties that only show up for one turn after a hit. Another that can go for a while is to recover from stun. Others can be picking yourself up after a takedown, throw, or other “you fall down” result. Re-readying a weapon might count.

Maybe it’s because I suck, but when I used to spar, unarmed, long staff, twin midstick, double sword, long sword, or short-and-long (we do cool sparring in Hwa Rang Do), you would fight, break, fight, break, etc. Even in grappling, you occasionally pause – sometimes in an advantaged position, sometimes just holding your foe at bay.

Why pause? Sometimes, it’s looking for an opening. A series of feints and tests to get your foe to flinch and open up his guard.

But sometimes, you’re just freakin’ tired. You need a few seconds to gather yourself together, or throw your next combination. This produces what I’ve heard of as “lulls and flurries” in combat. A clash of arms (or legs, teeth, pointed sticks . . . ).

So, I wanted to do this, and I wanted it to it organically, arising from the rules. I also wanted to mimic one more thing I saw in real life. Before a tournament, I’d always, a month or two before, really ramp up my interval training, because how much wind you had really mattered in the two to five minute matches we’d do for grappling. We now do continuous sparring with takedowns and lockouts in HRD, and I have to imagine that your fitness level would be key there too.

So I wanted to have fitness matter. Call that “Note 1.”

The other thing I noted was that spending fatigue wasn’t that big a deal. Sure, once you got down to FP/3 you started having real issues. But until that, no big deal. In the DF game I play with +Nathan Joy  Cadmus has HT 12, so I basically have 7-8 FP I can use in Extra Effort before anything happens to me, and if I can chill out for an hour and a half I’m ready to rock.

Same thing with long-distance GURPS running, or magic, for that matter. It all recovers at 1 FP per 10 minutes (modified for Fit, Very Fit, Unfit, etc.) until you start losing HP.

But many of my friends who run marathons can take three weeks to recover from that kind of strain. Maybe (probably?) that’s losing HP. But you’re sore and stressed for a few days after a good weight workout too, and that’s not HP of damage.

So Note 2 was “losing FP should be easily recovered at first, but losing lots of FP should take a long time to recover, maybe as much as weeks.”

Naturally, my thoughts turned to the Size-Speed/Range Table at this point. I’d had a geometric progression going where every FP took a certain multiple (constant multiple) longer to recover. It was +Steven Marsh who suggested the leveled structure that eventually appeared in the article, which was a way, way better solution than what I’d had.

For the short-term fatigue thing, though, my initial thought was “you spend an action point every time you roll the dice.” Even then, I wanted something that was going to be simple to track in play. I wound up with something fairly similar, but the “per die roll” thing had a certain amount of compelling to it.

Then, of course, I had to consider movement. That was – and is – a bit of a sticky there.

Edit: Fortunately, +Jason Packer has provided a helpful chart covering AP costs through Move 18. Thanks, Jason!

Point costs were also tricky. Fortunately, I had a very capable group of people who were well-disposed to playtesting my ideas: I recruited from the Technical Grappling playtest list, and got great advice. I didn’t always follow it – author privilege – but it was really great seeing a PT report of a boxing match, as an example, and seeing the “standing eight-count” be an important recovery strategy.

Anyway, there are more details in there. I tried to cover short and long distance running and lifting weights in an early draft – those didn’t work out as clean as I’d have liked – but all in all, I think it’s a nice addition. I’d love to play a game in which AP are used.

Which reminds me: +Peter V. Dell’Orto loves to remind me by direct word and indirect role-modeling, that it’s not cool to harsh on people’s fun. The box in the article noting that it’s smply Cruel and Unusual Punishment to make a GM track APs on fifty mooks? Yeah, that’s inspired by my thought of what Peter would say if I told him that this was how all games needed to run. Thus, I worked out a simple 1d6 style roll that would dictate NPC mook actions but, on the average, work out to the same number of actions and lulls as if you were managing your AP one by one.

OK, the previous post was a bit of a let-down, right? A perfectly good rant was set up, but it’s not actually a good rant, because, hey, the GURPS rules handle this just fine as-is more or less, from point values from 75 through about 300 (probably less if I stripped all the non-combat stuff from Cadmus).

So why post? Why not just delete it?

Sometimes, things that you think are broken really aren’t. Sometimes, things that you think work great or are “the Rules As Written” just don’t work well.

Calling out what doesn’t work, or amending it, is cool, and helps you play games more to one’s liking.

But calling out what does work is pretty cool to. If it aint’ broke, etc.

******

I’ve been pretty prolific here, and then nothing. Apparently, the “worry tank” and the “creative writing” tank are connected, because work’s been suck-tastic recently, and I’ve not been in the mood to write about RPGing or GURPS at all.


I distinctly do not like this.

It hasn’t helped that my regular games were both cancelled this week, and the really cool session underneath Ravenscraeg will happen without me, most likely, tomorrow. Well, perhaps +Nathan Joy and the team will find a way to playtest my alternate feints rules.

There’s more in me to write, but I need to recharge the batteries. Hopefully inspiration will strike again soon!

This post has a temporal shift. The link that inspired the post happened a month ago. Then I returned to it. Interesting what a month brings . . .

*******

There’s a reason I follow Jeffro’s blog, since his post here crystallized something I’ve been toying with for a while.

In GURPS, if you’re attacked, you may defend. It’s one of the things I love about the system, and that I dislike about D&D and it’s kin: no real active defensive tactics. Oh sure, I think you can fight defensively and get a bonus to AC in exchange for a penalty to hit/damage rolls (if you can’t, you should, so there) . . . but it’s not core to fighting like it is in GURPS.

Anyway, Jeffro points out that two older games (see his post) which were inspired by Steve Jackson’s The Fantasy Trip (which helped inspire GURPS) have some interesting rules:

In Legends you lose your attack on your next round if you parry. In Heroes, if you parry, you can’t move if you defend. All use the “you get to choose an active defense” mechanic.

Ponder, though, what GURPS allows in active defenses and maneuver selection in light of the restrictions above.

*** As Larry Niven would say: Discontinuity ***

In GURPS, you are allowed any Active Defense if you take a Move action. So while hoofing along at Joe Average’s Move 5 (10mph, or a 6-minute mile), you can dodge a sword slash, parry a thrust, or block a thrown Duck of Doom at full skill.

I’d go on, but work has utterly sucked the creative fun out of me since last week.

I also recently played a Gladiators game with +Vaclav Tofl , and found that at lower skill levels (10-12 effective skill), the choice between fighting offensively (Committed Attack and Attack) and backing the hell up (Defensive Attack or All-Out Defense) is pretty stark. At high point levels, you can fight like a cinematic hero.

So what started out as a rant that was going to end with “we really need some sort of mechanic that allows you to press an opponent, and if you defend, you may not attack, since that’s the way most fights work” ended with some actual play experience that told me that at skill levels below 12-14, this is what you do to survive anyway.

At higher skill levels, you probably have enough points to not go full defensive. But if Cadmus (my 313-point Warrior Saint) attacks his doppleganger twin, he’ll be going at (say) Committed Attack with Axe-21 against his own Parry-15 (16 with a retreat). The Committed Attack can be a DA for -6 to skill (net Axe-15 and -3 to defend) vs Parry-12. That’s still darn good, mostly due to Cadmus’ +3 DB large shield.

Without it (as with my gladiator experience) he’s Parry-12, or Parry-9 after the deceptive attack. He’ll only defend one time in 3 (37% – OK, two times in five) in this situation. So in essence, his shield takes him from “better fight defensively” to “you’ve got such good cover that you can attack with relative impunity against a 300-point adversary.”

To Peter’s point: “Does it work in actual play?

My “problem” is a non-problem. Rats. Perfectly good high horse ruined.

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!


So: we continue!

Feats

A “Feat” is basically a little rules tweak that enables you to take advantage of skill and training to do something cool. They’re categorizied, and all classes get a new Feat every other level at minimum, and Fighters in particular get one every level. This is the fighter’s thing, and with 20 or so Feats by the time you get to the top of the food chain, there is room for serious butt-kicking.

Some of the feats are nested, tiered, sequential, have prerequisites – however you want to put it. So if you find a Feat that is particularly juicy, it might take some advanced planning.

I’m new to Pathfinder, still, but from reading around, there seem to be some Feat combinations that are seen to provide an “I Win” button in certain circumstances – or at least an overwhelming degree of smackdown. Some players familiar with the system clearly have their Feat progressions mapped out during character design – I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but it would appear that what Feats you choose is really important.

I’m not going to do a Feat-by-Feat breakdown here. That would be roughly insane, since the table for Feats goes on for four tightly laid-out pages, and the descriptions rather more.

Most Feats, as I said earlier, tweak a rule. Normally damage bonuses are based on STR . . . but the Weapon Finesse Feat lets you take advantage of your DEX instead.

So let’s look around at some types of feats, basically making up a structure as I go along. This isn’t meant to be all-inclusive.

Skill-Boosting Feats


The first Feat listed is Acrobatic, which gives a +2 bonus to Acrobatics and Fly checks. There are other feats like this one, that provide a bonus (often this scales with level in some way) to a small set of skills. Such Feats include Alertness (Perception and Sense Motive), Athletic (Climb and Swim), Deceitful (Bluff and Disguise), Deft Hands (Disable Device and Sleight of Hand), Magical Aptitude (Spellcraft and Use Magic Device), Persuasive (Diplomacy and Intimidate), Self-Sufficient (Heal and Survival), and Stealthy (Escape Artist and Stealth).That’s nine feats, covering a +10% boost to 18 skills. It’s like leveling up twice in something you’re already maxed out on, but it doesn’t count against the ranks you put in the skill.

Saving Throw Boosts


Some Feats help you when you make saving throws. These are a small family, with basically obvious names. Iron Will, Lightning Reflexes, and Great Fortitude. There are improved versions that allow a reroll of a failed saving throw.

Movement Feats


A lot of these have to do with mounted combat, and those are based off the obviously-named Mounted Combat Feat. This has a cascade three levels deep in places: Mounted Combat, Ride-By Attack, followed by Spirited Charge, which gives double damage on a mounted charge. Go grab your lance.

The Dodge cascade starts with bonuses to AC, but also includes concealment when moving, as well as moving before and after attacks, allowing you to start at a distance, get close and pound someone, and then move again. Paired with Nimble Moves cascade to ignore difficult terrain, Fleet to get a slight boost to your base move, you might be able to harass people and stay out of harm’s way.

Class Feature Feats


A bunch of Feats exist to get better at things your class is already good at. Channeling energy vs. outsiders (Alignment Channel), channel energy through an attack (Channel Smite), and a few other helping hands to channeling. There’s also boosts to Ki, Lay on Hands, Mercy, Rage, and Bardic Performance through the Extra X set of feats.

Armor and Shield Feats


These feats enable you to use certain types of armor and shield (surprised ya, eh?). The basic Armor Proficiency feats are pretty cool, and are a cascade for Light, Medium, and Heavy armor (no attack penalties while wearing them). One bit of coolness is Arcane Armor Training/Mastery, which reduce your chance of spell failure while wearing armor by 10 or 20%, which enables you to wear armor with an AC bonus of up to +4 and not start risking spell failure. It’s not AC +9 Full Plate, but if you had the right Feats, you would have the same chance to cast spells in full plate as you do in studded leather.

The various shield feats increase AC bonuses, allow you to strike with the shield without suffering two-weapon penalties, use the big tower shields, or do various forms of shield bash with improved effects.

Magical Enhancements and Item Creation


Gotta start with the cool one: there’s a whole list of feats to make magical items yourself. There are also metamagic feats that allow you to enhance spells – no components, higher level, longer range, that sort of thing.

One cool one is Arcane Strike, which allows you to treat your mundane weapons as magical – and get a bonus – if you can use arcane spells. Nifty.

There are various other feats for spells to enhance defensive casting, beat your foe’s resistance roll vs. your own spells, cast better counterspells, or increase your own saving throws.

Smackdown Feats

“Combat Feat” is a term of art in Pathfinder, so I’ll avoid using it for this broad category of cool stuff. There are lots of these. Everything with an asterisk is considered a Combat Feat.

Unarmed Combat

There are a host of options that enhance the ability to fight with your hands. I have to think these are aimed at the Monk, but that’s not the only class that can use these. You can treat your limbs as armed weapons, catch arrows, make extra attacks (that one requires a BAB of +11, restricting it to high-level warrior-types), or improve your grapple.
Ranged Combat

There are a bunch of things that are really tailor-made for the arrow-loving legions among us. Deadly Aim allows you to trade a ranged attack bonus for damage – this is probably as close to “Aim for the Vitals” as you’re going to get in this game. Mounted Archery is part of the mounted movement cascade. Point-Blank Shot begins the cascade for a group of eight feats that allow halving range penalties, shooting into melee with impunity, shooting around armor (that one requires a BAB of +16, which means Fighters, Paladins, and Rangers of high level only, I think). 
Melee Combat

The regime of front-line combatants, there are a bunch of these, and they can be pretty cool. You can fight defensively with Combat Expertise, lowering your hit roll but boosting your AC. That cascade unlocks disarms, feints, and trips, as well as Whirlwind Attack, which allows you to make a single melee attack at every foe within reach. Go go gadget polearm!
The other cascades that are meaty here are Weapon Focus (bonuses to attacks, intimidation of foes, more damage, make flat-footed, ignore damage reduction), Two-Weapon Fighting feats that make you a pretty good imitation of a Cuisinart. And the Power Attack cascade, which includes words like “sunder” (destroying an object) and “rend” (extra damage). Also includes the ability to rush a foe and knock him prone.
Injury Modifiers

There are also a few cascades of feats that allow you to really up the ante on how badly you hit someone. The Critical Focus tree can add secondary effects to critical hits, such as bleeding, blinding, deafness, sickness, and stunning. The Vital Strike cascade can increase the basic weapon damage rolled by as much as 4x.
Final Word
My final word here is that I’m not nearly experienced with this stuff to make recommendations. I’ll let other grognards do that. But very clearly it pays to be aware of what’s out there, and what the prerequisites are so you’re not boxed out of a desired Feat. DEX and BAB minima, as well as level and class constraints are all possible. Figure out what you think you want to be good at, and if you just can’t live without Greater Penetrating Strike and Greater Vital Strike, just know you will need to be a 16th level fighter to get them both.

So, Pyramid has an upcoming issue on Swashbucklers and Pirates. I’m playing in a Pathfinder Skull and Shackles campaign GMed by +Jeromy French.

This puts me in a piratical mood, and I was thinking this morning about what would happen if the typical DnD or Dungeon Fantasy world were to take to the open seas. This really applies to most magical fantasy tropes.

Ah, my ship. My glorious vessel, perhaps similar to the ships in the picture.

“They might have the weather gage, but we have the weather gods.”
       – Master and Commander

The ships portrayed in the Aubrey-Maturin novels (if you haven’t seen it, go see Master and Commander. It’s good.) seem to range in length from about 100 to 170 feet or so. Why does this matter? Well, the Wind spell has a base cost of 1/50, meaning you can enclose most ships in the spell’s area of effect for the base cost of the spell: 1 point of energy gives you a 50 yard radius. And for the price of exhaustion of one man (say, 8 FP), you can get a ship from the doldrums and becalmed to steering in a couple of knots of wind for eight hours. Then he can rest for an hour and a half and do it again. It ain’t fast, but it’s not motionless, either. With a few mages, or some sort of manastone or other power source, no ship would ever be motionless. That’s kind of a big deal.

You can also shift the wind by 22.5 degrees with the same spell. While many age of sail ships had issues going directly into the wind, again, one magic spell later, and you can all of a sudden get that much closer. With enough magic, the concept of “the weather gage” largely irrelevant.

An army travels on its stomach.
                     -Napoleon Bonaparte 

Another big deal in long-distance sailing is of course food and water. A frigate would carry a shockingly large quantity of food and water, with “six months’ stores” being a common figure.

Guess you don’t need that if you can purify water, eh? Or create it? Essential food, at six meals to the pound, is 1-2 man-days of food per pound. For a 250-500 person crew for 180 days, that’s less than 45 tons of food. That seems like a lot, but it’s probably not. A thousand-ton ship wouldn’t even notice it (it’s only slightly more than the weight of the crew). If you need a gallon of fresh water per day (ish), call it 10 lbs per man per day, that would normally be 450 tons (you’d probably never carry that much, after all, that’s 450 cubic yards of water).

You can see where this is going. Cornucopia for powder and shot, perhaps. Or bolts for ballistae and stones for catapults if that’s your thing. Forget a ship’s surgeon doing more harm than good – ships would probably sail with an alchemist for various potions, and more than one cleric both as a spiritual leader as well as for healing. Gods of water would be big, as would death or thievery for those of a piratical bent.

Of course, just because you can cast spells doesn’t mean an opposing ship’s wizards will let you. So an evenly matched duel would still be on terms that make the sailors important, if the various supernatural forces are cancelled out by each other.

Finally, if your response to all that is “frack that, you scurvy dog, I’ll hang you from the yardarm!” then you can always go Dresden on it’s ass: Water grounds magical energies. On the open sea, you’re on your own.

Healing and whatnot might be divine, and still work. Learned Prayers for wind might also be OK, though a quick look at GURPS Powers makes it look frightfully expensive.

***

Sorry it’s been a bit dry this week, but work’s been really busy. Today also marks the first time that I’ve tried to embed an image in the flow of text. Blogger handles this quite well, with autoflow around the picture. You guys know what this means, right? Pretty soon, my blog will inevitably have graphs.  

I just reread the first ten pages of Technical Grappling. 

Damn, this thing is dense. I mean, I wrote it and all, but there’s a lot packed into a small space.

I hope people like it.

And no, I don’t know when it’s coming out either. Even if I did, I couldn’t say. So there.

Not much of a post today, but I started reading TG again after a forum post made me look something up. I found a few simple errors, which naturally SJG let me correct instantly. Good for both of us.

So, I wrote this Big Long Post on melee skill levels in GURPS. It got a lot of favorable attention.

Then, on Saturday night, March 2, I joined +Vaclav Tofl and +Michael Keenan in a Gladiatorial smackdown.

We each played 75 point characters, and since there were two PCs and five pre-gens, Michael and I were on the same team. I joined late, at 8:30, and we started almost immediately. My usual GURPS guy is Cadmus, a 313-point Warrior Saint. So I’m used to rather high-point combat.

Michael played a sword-and-shield guy, and so did I. I had a large shield, Shortsword-14, but not Shield Wall training. I also had Shield-14, for Block-13, Parry-13, Dodge-10. All characters were pre-gen’ed by Vaclav.

We faced a javelin-tosser, a strong berserker with a great axe and Reach-2, and a canny two-sword fighter with Sword-16 or so. So it was 2-on-3, starting at the opposite ends of maybe a 30-40 yard wide circular arena.

We scored a narrow victory. Michael’s character and mine were both down to lower than HP/3 by the end of the fight, with me at 4/13 and Michael hanging on to consciousness at 0 HP. The berserker went berserk, and his All-Out Attacking rapidly and inevitably led to his demise. He was the first casualty. The second foe to fall was the two-sworder, whose skill-16 was nearly the death of both Michael and I. I plodded on to the javeliner at Move 2 (halved for being chopped up a lot) and managed to force some sort of cowardice roll where he dropped his spear, and after that, he yielded. Technically, one might call Michael’s character the second casualty, as he got cut up quite a bit and wound up going all defensive, using the axe-wielder’s fallen body as cover for a while.

What were my take-aways?

  • I don’t know the 4e rules back-to-front, and you really need to run the game to master the game.
  • I stand by my post! Skill-14 to Skill-16 is the beginning of dangerous. My character, with an effective Shortsword-12 due to his large shield, really didn’t have a lot of fun attack options that didn’t leave him totally exposed
  • Reach 2 is a great thing to have; Reach 2 and Grip Mastery (Form Mastery?) that lets you change Reach on a weapon instantly is even cooler (the Axe guy had the Reach, but not the mastery).
  • Committed Attacks are still your friend, much more so than All-Out Attacks. They still have major drawbacks, but they’re a nice little boost. The Long option is really nice in some cases.
  • I brought down – but did not kill or incapacitate – the berserker with a crippling strike to the leg. At only -2, this is really your go-to target at lower skill levels – a cutting attack to the leg. Once it’s crippled (and while Knut the Berserker had DR1 tough skin, that was all the armor anyone had) your foe is basically immobile, and if you can back off a yard or three, he’s out of the fight. A prone foe is still hazardous for a yard or two, though – you can’t just ignore them.
  • The vitals are even nastier than I thought, and at only -3, this is Big News. Any injury to the vitals triggers a check for stunning, just like the head. That’s a monster fight-ender, since it invokes Death Spiral mechanics. I’d missed that when I read the rules, and figured that the x3 injury multiplier was enough. But no, even a 1-point injury to the vitals or head (eyes, face, skull) is enough to trigger a stun check
  • Don’t bother with a Large Shield at this point value if you don’t have Shield Wall training. That -2 hurt a lot at Skill-10-14. 
  • Partner tactics can work, but require a bit of pre-discussion. 
  • We had an interesting rules question (to me): If you start in someone’s side hex, and step to the rear, is that a runaround attack that gives -2, or (the way we played it) do you need to start in the front hex for it to qualify as runaround, and therefore you do get the “can’t defend” hit for stepping from side to rear. I think the text supports that you have to start in a front hex to qualify for runaround, which means letting someone in your side hexes is a bad, bad idea
  • Turns out that lower than 1/3 HP does, in fact, lower your Basic Speed. I thought it was just Move and Dodge.
  • The javeliner spent a lot of time aiming and throwing javelins at about a -3 or -4 penalty to no good effect, really, at the skill level he was tossing at (I’d guess 14). I think this suggests that better tactics for someone with a missile weapon is probably to run in, throw a hatchet (swing damage!) at short range, then Fast-Draw a weapon and mix it up. I think this squares with my comments on ranged weapon skill levels.
  • I’d mis-remembered the rules on Stun. You always take a Do Nothing after you’ve been stunned, and you make your HT roll to recover at the end of your turn. That’s an important bit of trivia, since it guarantees a stun result gives at least one round of Do Nothing to the victim.
  • Fallen foes and friends are a pain in the ass when you’re doing tactical combat, and the rules for movement points and facing changes really add up when it comes to tactical mobility.
I think such combat-heavy games might make good use of The Last Gasp and Delayed Gratification. I’m biased, though.

Vaclav had all this stuff down cold. I don’t think he mis-remembered any rule (maybe once? GURPS has a lot of rules), and he was perfectly willing to make judgement calls when it made sense. He was talking about a campaign that mixed Roma Arcana, Gladiators, and brought in Martial Arts. If I weren’t playing in two games  already, I’d sign up instantly. If you get a chance to play in his campaign, you should take it.