Continuing the GURPS 101 series on the fundamental stats (ST, DX, IQ, HT) and the derived statistics, we turn our sights on Dexterity, as well as two of the things it influences: Basic Speed and Move.

Look for +Peter V. Dell’Orto‘s contribution over at Dungeon Fantastic.
+Jason Packer knocks it out of the park, listing nearly every use of DX.
+Christopher R. Rice takes it personally, and talks about how he and his players view DX/Move/Speed.

The Joy of DX

Ah, DX. You can never have too much of it. And whatever you have, you want more. You can never really get enough DX, though some characters obviously will want more than others. Any time there’s something physical needs to be done, in the end, it’s all about getting more DX. It’s a survival trait.

OK, enough of that, but it was too easy to pass up.

And the point isn’t wrong. Dexterity drives something like half the skills in the game, and for a game with hundreds of skills, DX (and of course, IQ) are some of the most efficient uses of points out there from a generalist’s perspective. In GURPS Character Assistant for 3e, there used to even be an “optimize” feature that would search for combinations of DX that would leave your lowest DX (and IQ) based skill as-is, but increase DX until the payoff wasn’t there. And since back then, it was 8 points for each +1 for a DX-based skill, this tipping point could happen pretty darn fast.

In 4ed, skills max out at 4 points/level, and DX is 20 points. So if you have five or more skills that you have at the point where you’re spending four points per level on them (or the total cost per level of all physical skills you want to increase), you will be better off from a point budget point of view to spend your points on DX.

The exception to this is obviously when you want to be good at only one or two things. It’s the old specialist-vs.-generalist argument, and with each +1 to DX being worth +5 to skill, the disparity is large.

In many cases, DX and skill are direct substitutes for each other. In many grappling contests, for example, you’ll see “Roll a Quick Contest between the combatants’ (Trained) ST, DX, or highest grappling skill.” Well, there you go. If your ST is Lifting ST at 3 points/level, that’s the cheapest way from A to Victory. Next is skill, then ST, then DX. So from that perspective, it’s the worst way to approach “what do I want to be good at,” unless the answer is “everything.”

Still, the power of the generalist can be pretty annoying, especially when you look at the dreaded 1-pointer. You know him. The DX 16 guy with 19 1-point skills. with a minimum of Skill-13 with Very Hard skills, and Skill-16 for Easy ones. You will never outshine the guy whose only mission in life is picking locks, but the high DX types (and of course, the high-IQ) types can be niche-breakingly competent.

There aren’t many tricks here, other than “don’t let your focus on being the generalist overshadow your character concept, unless it’s ‘be good at everything physical’ “

Move and Speed

Speed drives Dodge, and Dodge is Life. It takes +4 DX to make +1 Basic Speed (80 points/level) and 20 points of Basic Speed to get +1 Dodge. Dodge alone is worth 15 points/level (p. B51). It’s the defense of last resort for everyone, and by and large the only defense you get against bullets and beams, unless you invoke house rules.

Move is not a factor in Dodge. But it tends to be a pretty strong factor in fun. If you’re sitting there chugging away in heavy armor (or light armor but you’re still low move for some other reason), given the frantic pace of GURPS combat, the fight will be over by the time you get there, unless your friends are willing to hold the line and advance with you. Good luck with that; thus far, the group I play with is not willing to hold that sort of discipline. I think +Peter V. Dell’Orto‘s and +Sean Punch‘s groups are.

Other Factors

+Jason Packer has a great list in his own post of all the things other than skills, Speed, and Move (and Dodge) that DX buys you. It’s a lot. I suspect that DX would still be a good buy at 30-40 points per level, which is why it’s so compelling at the current price. The higher your Move, the faster you can get yourself in and out of trouble, and this is a big deal, in my experience. Speed? Not so much, based on actual play, even at 300-point type characters. Dodge can be a big deal, but you can get at that without speed if you want.

Talk about the titular polar opposite of the previous article, The Golden Geniza of Ezkali. Seven Mythical Artifacts for Dungeon Fantasy is precisely what it says on the tin. Seven items, taken from real-world myth and legend, with which to spice up your Dungeon Fantasy campaign.

Each one gives a brief overview of the mythological origin of the item, a list of canonical properties and powers/abilities of the item, plus a few variations in case the GM wants to spice something up.

No, no, no. Not that Aegis

These are priceless artifacts, and no method of constructing them, buying them with points or cash is provided. Nor should it be. Many up the ante from “a wizard did it” to “made by the frakkin’ Gods,” so handle with care.


That one.  Close your eyes, fool.

The mythical shield of Zeus himself, forged by Haphaestus, etc. This bad boy comes with a built-in bonus, literally the remains of a boss monster. Which is where the term “shield boss” originally came from.


This shield is incredibly badass. It’s a huge shield with an appropriately huge defense bonus, but doesn’t suffer penalties to defending. It’s also got a bad case of Medusa-face, and has a few other bits of coolness to it as well. The only drawback is how heavy it is.

The variations section talks about who might use it, as well as how it might exist in campaigns with less directly Greek-inspired origins.

Coir Cethar Chuin

At its core, it’s a magical harp. It grants some bardic abilities and some really cool enthrallment spells. For an actual Bard, or one with similar abilities and skills, this will be the item that caps your character and makes him the Bard. It’s Excalibur, Mjolnir, or something similar of the bardic bent.

This one is, admittedly, less inspiring to me than some of the others, but then, I’ve never lusted to play a bard in DF. Since the DF Bard (DF1, p. 5) is a 250-point template right along with the rest of the warriors, though, one can’t dismiss an artifact so perfectly tailor-made to make you awesome.

Golden Fleece

The description is short and sweet, and basically describes what the artifact was, and how Jason stole it. The properties include being totally awesome, keeping you from toxic death, and being mildly proective.

Did we mention it’s awesome?

Helm of Hades

Anyone who wears the helmet of the lord of the underworld can give +Samuel Jackson a lesson in being a badass. Maybe. Just stay out of the way if Samuel puts on the helmet, though. He’s Nick Fury with magic resistance.

This is a darn fine helmet, massively protective, with some other perks as well. Any delver worth his or her salt will find good use for it.

Necklace of Skulls

A necklace made out of the skulls of those brave, stupid, or unlucky enough to challenge Kali, the Hindu goddess of energy, time, and death. This is not a good thing for other people. Mightn’t even be a good thing for the wearer.

The two primary abilities are first something that makes Righteous Fury look like a power granted by a pansy. And Righteous Fury grants +1d6 to ST, DX, and HT.

Trust me, the blessing of Kali’s Fury is better. And worse.

There’s also a neat variant that can be used to fuel less potent, but also interesting versions of this for Vikings.

This one, along with the Helm of Hades and Aegis, are on an adventurers “might really want to have this” list. But watch out for the side effects.


A three-meter-long magical dragon slaying sword.

Not sold yet? Geez, tough customer. Anybody of SM +1 will want this. Actually, anyone might want this, but your Barbarian types who actually buy the bigger SM that the template affords can step right up. This is an anti-magic sword of high craftsmanship and quality.

(and it’s ten feet long)

It also provides a supremely effective set of defensive capabilities, which will make any delver sit up and take note. It’s the only one of these seven artifacts that actually carries a price tag, since ultimately, it might be possible in a DF world to make one. Even has, to take it one step further, “how to” notes for the materials and Cosf Factors.

Tezcatlipoca’s Smoking Mirror

Was really tempted to just call this Prezel’s Smoke and Mirrors, but I resisted.

This one is intersting because +Antoni Ten Monrós points out it can be used two ways, for power or horror, since the Aztec gods were not always terribly nice people. This is basically a power item, which can be used to make badass magic.

As mentioned in the introduction, this article is exactly what it says, no less but (sadly) not much more, either. It delivers the brief goods on each myth, gives how much each items is worth as a Power Item, and some cool properties that make these artifacts worth having.

Style, Writing, Execution [-2 to 2 points]: Recall that a score of 0 means “didn’t get in the way,” and doesn’t represent a bad score. This article is quite terse, and says what it says. It’s a competent piece of technical writing and the game stats are well presented. 0 points.

Background, Inspiration, Epiphany [0 to 4 points]: Each of these is a background element and gives a nice idea of some flavor to go with it. The kind of actions that might inspire a deity to bestow one of these, or the adventuring possibilities that go along with them, make for good plot seeds. 3 points.

Drop-in Gaming Utliity [0 to 4 points]: Each of these is as drop-in as it gets, being a complete piece of kit. You might need to polish some edges off to fit your particular world mythology/pantheon, but with a few moments of filing off serial numbers, each of these, or all of them, is a good-to-go entry. 4 points.

Overall: 7/10. A very workmanlike treatment of the topic, hampered in style by the issue’s mission of not rehashing anything you can just go look up on the internet. With a bit more allowance for telling the individual tales, this could have been even better, up to as high as a 9.

Would I use it? I could see dropping in a few of these, again with serial numbers filed, into the later stages of a DF game, where some of the powers granted would not overshadow the players using them. Antoni plays in a something-like 600-point DF game, so I bet these fit right in with his guys!
Over at the SJG Forums, there’s a fairly involved thread about dealing with attacks from behind.

So, with that:

p. B374: An active defense is a deliberate attempt to avoid a particular attack. It’s only possible if the defender is aware of the possibility of an attack from his assailant and is free to react . . . by moving out of the way of the attack (a dodge), deflecting the attack with a weapon or empty hand (a parry), or interposing a shield (a block).

p. B391: Against an attack that comes from your back hex, you cannot defend at all unless you have Peripheral Vision (which lets you defend at -2) or 360° Vision (which lets you defend at no penalty).

p. B391 – Runaround Attacks:  A fast-moving fighter can sometimes start in front of a foe and run behind him to strike from his back hex. Against a true attack from behind, no active defense is possible, because the victim did not know the attack was coming. If the attacker starts in front and runs behind, outmaneuvering his victim through sheer speed, the victim does know he’s being attacked.

Technical Grappling, p. 11 – Rear Arc:  When grappled, you know where your foe is! You defend against his attacks from your rear arc at -2 (as if from the side) if standing, crouching, or kneeling, or at -4 otherwise.

 To me, it’s going to be pretty simple. If your cannot perceive the attack in any way, you may not defend.

In my article Dodge This, from Pyramid #3/57, I spent some time on the Vision part of Perception rolls. I didn’t spend that much time – only a throwaway line – on other senses. Still, one big one is going to be hearing, as many people and critters will growl or give off some warning when they attack. Hearing is more of a 360-degree sense, and if you make a Hearing-2 roll against an invisible foe, you may parry or block at -4 . . . at least from the front. You may dodge at -4 if you’re aware you’re being attacked (again, this doesn’t specify arc, but I’ll assume mostly from the front). This is all covered on p. B394.

The way I read the rules, especially the quickie table on p. B549, is as follows

1. If an attack is from behind (excepting runaround attacks and pre-existing grapples), you don’t get to defend.

2. If an attack is not from behind, you may only defend if you can succeed in some sort of Perception check. Penalties for Vision rolls are given in various places, and Hearing at -2 is a good option even against invisible foes. You still get plugged in the back if the attack starts there, though.


There are always exceptions, and one I might make would be that if you’re being attacked from behind, you might be able to make a Hearing-based Melee or Unarmed Combat Skill roll, penalized, to hear your foe’s footsteps, breath, rustle of clothing or jingle of mail.

The only defense you can make is a Dodge, and you must either Retreat by stepping away from your foe, or if you feel compelled to stay in your own hex, Change Posture to kneeling or lower.

For penalties, I’d make it -2 generically for ‘can’t see attacker,’ -4 if you’re wearing a helmet that covers the ears, -4 if you’re actively fighting someone else, and likely another -4 for rear, rather than side or front arc.

That’s basically Hearing-6 if you’re just standing around, Hearing-10 if you’ve got open ears but are fighting someone in front of you, or have Hard of Hearing because you’ve got a helm on your ears, or a whopping Hearing-14 if all apply. If your Hearing roll drops below 3, you can’t rolll.

Parting Shot

The simple rule, attacks from the rear hex get no defense, is what we use in +Nathan Joy‘s DF game. It’s accepted by all, and we use it to our own advantage as much as the bad guys use it to theirs. The easiest way to deal with a foe in your rear hex is to either (a) have friends who can watch out for your, or (b) turn a bit to expose your peripheral vision to various arcs. But by and large, the reason you just get nailed if an attack comes from your rear hex is that it works in play. 

“What the hell is a geniza?” my wife exclaimed, upon seeing the title of the article on the dinner table, where I was (re) reading it in preparation for this review.

“Exactly!” I laughed.

Ultimately – and remember that although this issue is in the slightly-desported list of lowest total sales, it’s at the top of that list, and not terribly far from being only a single standard deviation from the mean sales for individual Pyramid issues – I suspect that one of the reasons that this issue isn’t in the middle of the pack for individual issue sales is that the title, while evocative, is utterly useless at informing the reader of what’s in it.

This article is 25% of the content of the issue, and there’s really no telling what it is. Perhaps that’s not fair, though – The Deadly Spring and The Last Gasp aren’t exactly informative either.

The Golden Geniza of Ezkali ( +Matt Riggsby )

What this article contains is an adventure, something that is often begged for on the forums, and yet where does this issue fall in sales? Well, getting ahead of myself, that’s not Matt’s fault. The adventure presented here in five pages and probably fewer than 4,500 words is eminently mineable for content and ideas. Whatever issues I have with it (and I’ll get to those later), it’s not that it’s bad.

The Philosophical Apparatus

The first section explains the crux of the theory here. That in societies with a strong bent of oral tradition, that there’s going to be some embellishment and story creep that happens, even with really important central myths and legends. Even with legends that are seemingly the same origin, the retelling can be very, very different. Thus the crux of the issue (so to speak): what if there really is only one true story, and that truth is critical to achieving some goal?

The Golden What, Now?

I usually don’t spend a lot of time with boxes, since they’re designed to provide supplemental, but not critical, content that is somewhat outside the flow of a typical GURPS/Pyramid article. They can, theoretically, appear on any page in a manuscript and be understandable by themselves (though SJG Layout Guru Nikki Vrtis always finds the right place for them).

So, that aside: a geniza is defined in this box, and I’ll give it away because frankly, to understand what it is is to understand why a party of adventurers might care to risk life and limb to find it. It’s a document treasure trove, a giant mount of information which is sequestered because of the (often holy, always important) nature of the documents themselves.

Honestly, the merest hint of the existence of such a thing should draw Sages, Wizards, and Clerics (if it’s a holy, rather than magical, geniza) like moths to a flame.

Preparing for the Adventure

A brief set of instructions for how to take the article, make the desired changes, and set up the key conflict and challenges. It’s basically a two-paragraph (but long paragraphs) how-to, and concisely lays out what the GM must do.

The Story of Ezkali

The other somewhat impenetrable part of the title is who the frack Ezkali is. Other than the title itself, this is the first time you hear about him, and it’s in a section designed to be cut out of the article, pasted into your favorite word processing program, and altered so that each PC has a slightly different version of the story. There are thousands of possible versions here, so each PC can have very different versions of the story to work with.

The story is fairly straight-forward, and can probably be altered to fit your gameworld if you don’t wish to plunk it down wholesale.

The Temple of the Golden Geniza

Laying out the principle of this very linear adventure (and that’s a good thing), the PCs will basically be navigating a series of traps. If they can win through, they may claim the geniza.

The nugget here is that Matt lays out, in seven categories, all you need to know about any trap ever. Perhaps it’s already been done, but a random generator based on these seven descriptors would produce millions of potential traps. +Christopher R. Rice may or may not have taken advantage of this when he wrote It’s a Trap! in Pyramid #3/60: Dungeon Fantasy III.

The article then quickly and succinctly lays out the challenges involved in passing through the temple to find and claim the geniza.


The article ends, and then you get four pages of maps, with hex grids, to give you the nuts and bolts of the Temple. These aren’t beautiful, but they get the job done and are an important addition to this article, since the GM would otherwise have to create them himself.

Before I get into my article rating, I wanted to make a few comments of a more holistic nature.

First, the adventure is very, very linear. This is, as far as I can tell, an absolute requirement for such things, either in e23 supplements or Pyramid articles. The entire feel of these adventures needs to be that of a side-quest in your typical MMORPG – something a GM can drop into an existing campaign and not have it wreck everything else. So the linear nature is a feature of the adventure, not a bug.

Overall, the only thing that really bugged me is that the article makes unusually heavy reference to other required works. There are four works referenced: DF2, DF4, DF8, and DFM1. No one will likely do this without at least Dungeon Fantasy 2: Campaigns, but having important bits of info spread through three other books could be a problem. I’d have rather seen the information in the article itself, but referencing other works is important. It drives sales and credits other authors, plus there’s lots out there that you can mine in those books.

Article Scoring

Style, Writing, Execution [-2 to 2 points]: Recall that a score of 0 means “didn’t get in the way,” and doesn’t represent a bad score. I’d call this one a 0, in that it was short, matter of fact, and told you what you needed to know. There wasn’t a lot of rhetorical flourish here, but it definitely did its job. 0 points.

Background, Inspiration, Epiphany [0 to 4 points]: There are several good background elements that provide “a ha!” moments here. The concept of having multiple versions of a story, the linear side-quest for traps, the notion of a big pile of documents as a reward, and the list of stuff that goes into a proper trap. The legend itself wasn’t that inspirational, and mostly served as (useful) fluff informing the choices the PCs will need to navigate the adventure. 3 points.

Drop-in Gaming Utliity [0 to 4 points]: The maps are the obvious bit of drop-in, and I’ll give it high marks for the stand-alone nature. I’m going to dock a point for needing three other DF books, but if you have them, you can run this with probably an hour or less of prep. 3 points if you don’t have the books; 4 if you do.

Overall: 6/10 if you need to go purchase the other volumes referenced, 7/10 if you already have them. This article is a good primer on what a GURPS adventure will look like as presented in Pyramid (and likely e23 as well, and Mirror of the Fire Demon is likewise reputed to be a fairly straight-on challenge that can be dropped into most campaigns.

Would I use it? Likely not exactly as-is, and I’d need to do some work on the particular myth I’m using, but with a few hours of prep, it would make a nice single adventure. The real key would be deciding how much utility one can get from four tons of paper. The utility for me would likely be the overall concept, which is a lot deeper than what is presented in this short article. Circumventing traps as a basic concept, ensuring that even though the PCs have a story, it may not be the right story, and information rather than gold, weapons, and other gear as the quest object? All good stuff.

I suspect that this is an overlooked gem for many DF gamers, and if the concepts I describe here are of interest, this one’s worth picking up.

+Peter V. Dell’Orto , +Mark Langsdorf , +Christopher R. Rice , and +Jason Packer have been dutifully adding to the tally of posts in the Melee Academy and GURPS 101 sections, which is awesome.

However, and this is key: we write this stuff because we know each other, we like the system, and whatnot.

That being said: we’re far from the only ones who play GURPS, nor are we the only ones with stuff to say on the topic.

So this is an open invitation. Have you written, or seen, a good blog post that would fit into one of these categories? Yes? Let me know! If it’s yours, just hit me up with the link and note you’d like it to be hosted on one of the two pages.

GURPS 101 is designed to be introductory notes concerning everything but fighting with muscle-powered weapons. The topics can be as basic (the articles on ST and HP and the forthcoming ones on the basic stats) or advanced (“Remedial” Ritual Path Magic) as you like.

Melee Academy is all about skills, tactics, weapons, and armor in hand fighting in GURPS. While it will tend to be, I think, focused on TL0-4, there’s no reason it needs to stay that way. One thing to not do here is stuff on guns and blasters. If we start to see another good chunk of these crop up, I’ll go ahead and create

The Firing Range: how-to and how-not-to content about firearms and ultra-tech weapons for ranged combat. Lightsabers would go in Melee Academy. But again, skills, tactics, weapons and armor, talking about firearms and their higher technology brethren.

Also, if articles overlap between Melee Academy and The Grappling Mat, that’s cool. I’ll link through twice.

So . . . any suggestions or additions? Please, do pile on!

The Fine Print: There will be a bit of a screening process, though. I will likely shy away from “GURPS is broken” posts, and I’m going to focus the content on Rules-as-Published, which means if you’ve got an awesome alternate weapon skill system with a linked damage progression, that’s great, but it’s not Melee Academy or GURPS 101 (house rules are at least GURPS 201, possibly GURPS 404, that course that you tack on the last half of your senior year). 

When I took a look at the most and least seemingly popular/favorable Pyramid issues since the magazine’s third incarnation, a few issues on the bottom were very poor sellers, but really gave no indication of why. I wanted to revisit each of these and do an article-by-article review, in the same manner that I reviewed Pyramid #3/57: Gunplay or Pyramid #3/61: Way of the Warrior. While those links go to the root articles, so to speak, every individual article got it’s own post.

This starts the series on The Power of Myth.


The issue starts of with the mission statement of hitting up pieces of myth, in the general and specific sense, that you can’t just go look up on Wikipedia or Google. So by design, this one was going to be a bit esoteric.

The article titles are:

THE BEAR MYTH by Alan Leddon
BABYLON RISING by J. Edward Tremlett
ART OF PROPHECY by Megan McDonald
ODDS AND ENDS featuring Murphy’s Rules

So seven “meat” articles, plus the usual bookends setting up and closing out the issue.

One thing that strikes me is that while I know four of these guys well, I’d not really heard of Kyla, Alan, or Megan before (surely my fault, not theirs; I’m darn sure they haven’t heard of me).

My first impression, on reading the table of contents, is that I have no idea what the feature article is going to be about. None whatsoever. Matt dutifully explains what a Geniza is right away in his introductory paragraphs, but my first impression is that 9 of 37 content pages, perhaps 25% of the entire issue, are a total unknown, giving no hint what I might be paying for.

OK, then boom . . . seven cool toys for DF. If I play DF (and I do), this one is surely going to have some value to me, though one might wonder if they’re going to be too high powered for general use. Still, it plays down the middle of the plate for the best-selling genre in GURPS (and in RPGing, for that matter).

Eidetic Memory: Baba Yaga. Having not really heard much about Baba Yaga until reading the article, this one wasn’t an instant draw for me.

The Journey of the Dead? Hmm. OK. Maybe.

As a matter of fact, way, way more than maybe. This was my favorite article in the issue, but I’ll get to that later, when I do the detailed review.

The Bear Myth. I expect something having to do with Native American folklore here (and as it turns out, it’s a lot more than that).

Babylon Rising. Intriguing and inviting title. Makes me want to read it.

Art of Prophecy. I’m going to guess at this point that it has something to do with how to deal with destiny and foreshadowing in games, which if true, will be a really neat article if done well. Something like an RPG with so very much player agency (if done right) makes the whole destiny thing hard to pull off. After all, when you steer players to a particular place, people scream railroading pretty fast.

So would the table of contents have drawn me in if I hadn’t already had a subscription? Possibly not.

Now, granted, compare with Pyramid #3/57, which is only four issues old. I’m a gun nut, so this would have been a sale from the title alone. But even without it, you get 12 pages of modern gear, 2 pages on magic bullets, something clearly game-mechanically related, two articles on what looks like a particular type of gun, and the intriguingly titled “The Devil’s Chariot,” which is entirely evocative. And written by Hans, so double win.

The average number of non-subscription sales for a Pyramid issue after the first few months have passed is 260. The standard deviation of that is about 70. So anywhere between 190 and 330 sales, and the middle half of all those stable issues spans between 190 and 310 copies sold. Pyramid #3/38 has sold 182 copies (which is actually one more than when I did the analysis, so the long tail is thin, but real!). So it’s lingering at the top of the bottom.

I’ll give away the ending before I review each article. I think this one has some hidden gems in it, notably The Journey of the Dead.

What I’m going to do is rate each issue as follows:

Style, Writing, Execution [-2 to 2 points]: Did the article draw me in, was it well organized, and did it the writing engage me and make me want to (a) read it, and (b) finish it? A score of 0 means that the writing didn’t get in the way. -2 would be that the writing or organization detracted from the work, and 2 is something that was notable as something enjoyable to read, much less use. Honestly, +Steven Marsh is a good editor, and the articles that will make his cut aren’t likely to be detractors from the work. I reserve “dear God this is awful” as a potential scoring, but I don’t expect to use it much for Pyramid.

Background, Inspiration, Epiphany [0 to 4 points]: This category is all that is good when one says “fluff” in a GURPS context. The things that make you go “a ha!!” about a rule (but not the rule itself), or a background that is rich and vibrant and tactile. Concepts that can be mined for goodness and inspire adventures, campaign arcs, or worldbuilding. A 0 here contains little that really drives the use of things – a rule that doesn’t solve an actual problem or enable enhanced narrative, an adventure that requires insertion into a very specific setting that isn’t common. A 4 is “I want to use this, run this, and my gaming is better for having read it, much less imported it into my game.”

Drop-in Gaming Utliity [0 to 4 points]: This is the ability to go from paper to game with minimal effort and pre-work. Things you can drop right in, start using right away, even in an existing campaign, that enhance without nerfing existing stuff? That’s a 4. Articles that are maybe awesome, but will require rebuilding an entire world around them, or can’t be used without wrecking the existing rules, or require four other issues of Pyramid or e23 supplements that aren’t really “core” to use? Closer to zero.

With that, we’ll get into the first article . . . in the next post!

In the past, I’ve done posts on the meaning and value of skills, both for ranged and melee combat. When chatting with my fellow GURPS bloggers, for some reason we hit on going through the basic attributes and their derived abilities, and commenting.

This is the start of a multi-blog series on the basic and secondary attributes in GURPS. If you’re new to the system, what are some things you’ll want to think about? If you really want some good stuff, go visit +Peter V. Dell’Orto‘s entry for this GURPS 101 subject – his extensive experience with DF gaming, where the templates and power-ups encourage a lot of variation in ST (and monsters! don’t forget monsters!) makes for better insights as to breakpoints and the value of HP, especially. 

Look for other GURPS 101 discussions of ST and HP at . . . 

Ravens N’ Pennies: GURPS 101: Mass and Power – What ST/HP Means To My Players
Dungeon Fantastic: Strength and Hit Points
RPG Snob: GURPS 101: An overview of Strength

Still, here were my own notes on the subject:

This week, we’re talking ST and HP.

The Value of ST

In lower tech games, ST is pretty much awesome, I think. It’s inexpensive at 10 points per level. And it gives you several things.

Damage: people love to focus on this one, and indeed, Striking ST is 5 points per level, and is basically buying extra points of damage. So that’s super-cool, right? Half the value, right there?

We’ll get back to it.

The other two things ST gets you in the usual breakdown are Lifting ST (3/level) and HP (2/level). We’ll cover HP later, so I’ll come back to that.

Lifting ST is interesting. Canonically, it buys encumbrance. If you use The Deadly Spring, it also gets you the ST used to draw bows and span crossbows, while if you also use Technical Grappling, Lifting ST is your Grappling ST, the figure used to do Trained ST. And since Trained ST/Lifting ST give control points (another variant on damage, but for restraining people), this is also good.

It’s thrust-based, though, where striking ST is often able to do swung damage, so it’s just better from that perspective.

Lifting ST, and the encumbrance it buys, is the unsung hero, I think, of lower TL games. Your Lifting ST 16 lugnut has basic lift of just over 50 lbs. That means he can stack up 50 lbs of gear and be unencumbered, at full Move and Dodge. Our ST 10, BL 20 lb. guy? That same 50-lbs of gear has him at Medium encumbrance, or -2 to Dodge and 0.6xMove.

So for 18 points worth of Basic Lift (and yes, you probably can’t just go buy that straight-up), you have just avoided something like 30 points of dodge penalty (+1 to Dodge being 15/level) and +2 to Move (worth 10 points). And since that 50 lbs (or double down, and make it 100 lbs, which would be Heavy encumbrance (3) at ST 10, but Light (1) at ST 16) is likely something like “a weapon and 45 lbs of armor and shield” the value of that ST is pretty clear.

In fact, when playing Cadmus, my Warrior Saint, I find the mobility loss especially is nice to avoid, because with the relatively frantic pace of GURPS combat, it keeps you in the fight, actually having fun, rather than plodding along hoping that by the time you get to the bad guys, it’s not all over.

So at least to me, the more ST the merrier at TL 0-4 at least, especially if you pair that with enough delving skill or Wealth to survive to afford 90 lbs of armor (Cadmus sports DR 12 on his head, neck, and torso, and DR 9 everywhere else. It weighs about 84 lbs, requiring ST 14.5 to have him at light encumbrance, and ST 20.5 to have him at No Encumbrance. He has ST 14 at the moment, so a 3-point spend on Lifting ST (or just find another +1 to ST somewhere) would be well worth it (actually, you’d want to push it up a bit so that you can carry all your fight gear).

At higher TLs, damage tends to be deprecated at melee, because, well guns. When you can toss out 5d or more a few times per second, at range, well, ST doesn’t seem to mean as much.

I’m not sure that’s right, though. If you look at The Modern Warrior’s Combat Load , the minimum weight a soldier heads to a fight with is about 60-70 lbs. You need ST 13 to hump that (and the full load is over 120 lbs) and being able to run around while being shot at (or near) is still important. And (thanks to +David Pulver ) it wasn’t any better in WW2, either.

That brings me to the other side of the ST coin, which is . . .

Hit Points

I’m of two minds about HP. I almost always just leave it where it is. I know one of +Peter V. Dell’Orto‘s players has bought his HP up to 25 or so.

Thinking about it, though, someone with that many HP can take 16 HP before flirting with the HP/3 loss of secondary attributes. That’s more damage than Cadmus can take before he’s playing “try to stay standing a second at a time,” and 16 HP is an average roll on 3d+5/4d+2. That’s a lot, and against more mundane foes, that might swing for 2d+2 or so, you can take a few shots (even out of armor) before you hit death spiral territory.

The death spiral in GURPS is real, and a true “feature” of the game, so avoiding it is a good idea. I haven’t played enough high-end DF to experience HP higher than ST by more than +3/30%, though, so I’m not the best to comment.

Parting Shot

All in all, I think my call here is “ST is awesome, buy lots of it at TL0-4. At TL 6+ when you’re dealing with decent guns raher than swords and spears, buy half as much.”

For HP, I’d probably ignore them unless you can exceed the normal extra, like in a game like DF. In that case, they’re good . . . but HT is probably better.

Reviews of past Pyramid issues was one of the things that came up in my “what to next” blog post.

Before I take up the challenge of issue reviews of Pyramid magazine, I thought I’d do a bit of analysis and see which issues I’d review.

Of course, we can all go to the What’s Hot page and do the usual sort: show me all of the Pyramid issues sorted by either Average Customer Rating or Number of Sales.

OK, fine, take the best five and worst five, and have at.

Right? Maybe not. There have been 61 issues since the restart of the magazine in its third incarnation. In the overall sort, we have certain implicit information. How long ago it was released is a function of the issue number, and we know they come out once a month, like clockwork.

We also get the average customer rating, the number of issues sold individually. The 12-month subscriptions more or less add a certain number to this, and that number isn’t constant, but varies depending on how many subscriptions are active. Still, I’m going to neglect that, despite it being the highest sales number of all. If I really wanted to dig into things, I’m sure I could extract number of 12-month subscriptions by month, by doing 61 individual searches.

I don’t care that much. I’m just looking for overall trends in the data.

So, are there any?

Unsurprisingly, yes.

Stand Up and Be Counted

If I were to just look at the average customer rating to tell me which issues were the most popular, would that work? Well, that depends on who’s voting and how many vote. Let’s take a look at how many bother to register their approval or disapproval of each issue.

Each big purple line (hey, I’m from Minnesota) represents 12 issues, or one year. To me, it seems like I can draw two conclusions. People really got excited about the new Pyramid volume in the first six months, and after that stopped voting.

As you can see by Steven Marsh’s comment below, the real conclusion is that there were a LOT of people who got six-month subscriptions to volume 3, and that drove up the numbers.

After that, the expected number of votes on an issues could be seen to decrease by roughly one vote per four or five months. So perhaps issues of interest are those with the highest percentage increase of votes more than expected, and the issues that were disliked or ignored are those with the lower deltas.The first six issues are excluded from this, because of the “new and cool” effect.

+Steven Marsh, Pyramid Editor and e23 Guru, was foiled by Blogger’s comment page (alas). But he did email me to note:

 As a reminder (or background in case you weren’t aware), with the changeover from Volume 2 to Volume 3, we gave everyone who had ANY time left on Volume 2 a six-month subscription to Volume 3. This explains why some statistics are so much higher on those first six issues; hundreds of more people had those issues compared to any other.

What are the best and worst in this case?

Best 10
Issues: % Votes from Expected
Worst 10 issues: % Votes from
Pyramid #3/33: Low-Tech (best) Pyramid
#3/32: Fears of Days Past
Pyramid #3/36: Dungeon Fantasy Pyramid
#3/42: Noir
Pyramid #3/44: Alternate GURPS II Pyramid
#3/53: Action
Pyramid #3/34: Alternate GURPS Pyramid
#3/11: Cinematic Locations
Pyramid #3/54: Social Engineering Pyramid
#3/35: Aliens
Pyramid #3/50: Dungeon Fantasy II Pyramid
#3/46: Weird Science
Pyramid #3/13: Thaumatology Pyramid
#3/27: Monsters in Space
Pyramid #3/43: Thaumatology III Pyramid
#3/14: Martial Arts
Pyramid #3/52: Low-Tech II Pyramid
#3/49: World-Hopping
Pyramid #3/41: Fantasy World-Building Pyramid
#3/61: Way of the Warrior (worst)

So, “best” in this case really means “encouraged more people than usual to go out and vote on it at all, regardless of whether this is a good vote or a bad one. Pyramid #3/33 would thus win if a record number of people logged on to say how much they hate it. Pyramid #3/61 (the most recent, which may count against it) might be the worst because, well . . . it’s still being read, and not enough time has gone by for people to read and digest it.

One last thing: are issues that sell well more likely to be rated at all? A quick plot of Vote count vs. Sales shows that yes, the more who buy it, the more vote. Not terribly surprising there, and what you see is that while there seems to be a floor of about ten or fifteen votes, roughly one person bothers to vote on the issue for each 23 people who buy the issue.

Actual Customer Feedback

Well, number of votes might be interesting, but you get to rate an issue when you vote, from 1-5 stars. So a couple things here. No issue has received an average rating less than 3.29 (Pyramid #3/02, the Superheroes one). One is currently sitting at a perfect 5.0 (#3/60, Dungeon Fantasy III).

OK, fine, let’s just quickly look at trends

One again, we see the first year as an anomaly. The “worst 10 rated issues” and “the first ten published issues” are one and the same. The best of these 10 is #3/04: Magic on the Battlefield, and even that one lags behind all the others by a smidge.

Once you get out of the first ten issues, overall, the ratings get better by a touch over time, but it’s not a strong function. But perhaps that’s because the new issues get favorable ratings first, and the not-so-good ratings come in later. What do we think? Number of votes gets larger with time (duh), but do ratings get worse as the number of votes increase? Well, yes.

The first thing we note is that the first six issues greatly skew any potential answer. So let’s throw them out, and see what we see.

OK, so yeah, the more votes you get, the more that you expect the pool to go down. So which Pyramid issues buck this trend? Which are the most above expectations, and most below?

Best 10
Issues: % Rating Adjusted by Votes
Worst 10 issues: % Rating
Adjusted by Votes
Pyramid #3/33: Low-Tech Pyramid #3/43: Thaumatology III
Pyramid #3/60: Dungeon Fantasy III Pyramid #3/57: Gunplay
Pyramid #3/34: Alternate GURPS Pyramid #3/07: Urban Fantasy
Pyramid #3/52: Low-Tech II Pyramid #3/14: Martial Arts
Pyramid #3/31: Monster Hunters Pyramid #3/56: Prehistory
Pyramid #3/54: Social
Pyramid #3/23: Action Adventures
Pyramid #3/30: Spaceships Pyramid #3/22: Banestorm
Pyramid #3/50: Dungeon Fantasy
Pyramid #3/10: Crime and Grime
Pyramid #3/13: Thaumatology Pyramid #3/08: Cliffhangers
Pyramid #3/59: Conspiracies Pyramid #3/09: Space Opera

The blue ones appear in both “best” lists. The only issue common to the bottom of both of these analysis is poor, lamented Martial Arts.

Overall, though, it’s probably a better metric to look at deviations from the expected performance over time (the second list) than who rushes out to vote for anything (the first one).
But what is perhaps the best metric of all? Gotta be . . . 
Sales, Glorious Sales

You have to read the description, read the title, maybe read some reviews, and then run out and buy this issue on an individual basis (as opposed to a subscription) to count here, so there are some definite issues. If you see an issue that makes you so happy that you buy a subscription, well, that removes you from the running going forward.
Still, a straight-up plot of Sales versus Issue number (which is also a proxy for time) should tell us something here . . . 
The first thing, just eyeballing it, is that it takes something like 6-12 months (really 6-9, I think) for an issue to saturate. After that time, you see what’s popular, and what’s not. But a simple sort on sales is what’s going to tell the tale here.
But, before we do that . . . surely the number of sales is highest for the best-rated articles!
Pretty meaningless. In fact, rating is so uncorrelated with sales that I’ll just go ahead and call those ratings utterly pointless. I noted before that other than those first six issues, you basically get an extra vote per 23 sales (dun dun DUN!!!!!).
So all of that noise later, and what do we get? 
Best 10
Issues: Total Sales
Worst 10 issues: Total sales
Pyramid #3/34: Alternate GURPS Pyramid #3/14: Martial Arts
Pyramid #3/33: Low-Tech Pyramid #3/38: The Power of Myth
Pyramid #3/13: Thaumatology Pyramid #3/27: Monsters in Space
Pyramid #3/12: Tech and Toys Pyramid #3/17: Modern Exploration
Pyramid #3/07: Urban Fantasy Pyramid #3/23: Action Adventures
Pyramid #3/44: Alternate GURPS II Pyramid #3/42: Noir
Pyramid #3/15: Transhuman Space Pyramid #3/05: Horror & Spies
Pyramid #3/25: Epic Magic Pyramid #3/49: World-Hopping
Pyramid #3/21: Cyberpunk Pyramid #3/32: Fears of Days Past
Pyramid #3/28: Thaumatology II Pyramid #3/02: Looks Like a Job for . . . Superheroes

Which issues were taken out of the running (and how many sales)?

Pyramid #3/56:
Prehistory (165)
Pyramid #3/57: Gunplay (215)
Pyramid #3/58: Urban Fantasy II (167)
Pyramid #3/59: Conspiracies (121)
Pyramid #3/60: Dungeon Fantasy III (155)
Pyramid #3/61: Way of the Warrior (95)

So none of these break into the top 10 (yet), which starts at 325 sales. Two are “dead last,” but Gunplay has already climbed out of the 10 Lowest category. 

Ballistic’s Report

What’s the point of all this? Mainly, it was hacking at the individual sales data to see if anything popped out. Of the lists provided, the Alternate GURPS and Thaumatology titles, plus Low-Tech, showed up repeatedly.
On the other hand, five of the best-selling issues were not in either list: Tech and Toys, Urban Fantasy, Transhuman Space, Epic Magic, and Cyberpunk. Note that two of these are probably maigc-oid (Urban Fantasy and Epic Magic), while the rest are sci-fi and (especially) gear and flash.
Of the least well performing, Martial Arts, Monsters in Space, Action Adventures, Noir, World-Hopping, and Fears of Days Past showed up in multiple lists, while The Power of Myth, Modern Exploration, Horror and Spies, and Looks Like a Job for . .  Superheroes have sold very poorly but didn’t show up on any of the “normalized” lists.
Future Reviews
So, fishing around in the data, I’m going to do some whole-issue reviews. 
First, I’ll take those that sold poorly but would not have been “predicted” to do so by other metrics:
Pyramid #3/38: The Power of Myth
Pyramid #3/17: Modern Exploration
Pyramid #3/05: Horror and Spies
Pyramid #3/02: Looks Like a Job for . .  Superheroes

Then, what about the surprising (perhaps) successes?

Pyramid #3/12: Tech and Toys
Pyramid #3/07: Urban Fantasy
Pyramid #3/15: Transhuman Space
Pyramid #3/25: Epic Magic
Pyramid #3/21: Cyberpunk
It should come as no surprise that the issues that do well are Alternate GURPS (nifty rules and explorations in a mechanics-heavy generic system), and fantasy, low-tech, gear, and magic. The best-selling genre and ifs offshoots.
More surprising are the issues that have done poorly. Perhaps there are some traps to avoid in looking at those.
Mostly, though, I take from this that the Customer Rating and number of votes are mostly meaningless numbers. We need a better way to dig into issues and articles and understand why they succeed and fail, and these quantities (at the level they’re reported) aren’t it.
Finally, one interesting last-minute thought: The low ratings of the first year might be related as much to “it’s not Volume 2!” as anything particular to the first twelve issues. “Not what I’m familiar with” is a real effect.

One of the core nifty bits of the Judo Throw in GURPS is that you can damage people with it. A damaging throw can be used to inflict (more or less) thrust-ish damage to a location of your choice.

On the other hand, you can also use a grappling skill to obtain a joint lock, and then use Throws from Locks in Martial Arts/Technical Grappling to do freakin’ swing damage to that joint. An original comment in the TG manuscript noted that a throw from a Head Lock (which effectively does 1.5x swing damage to the neck location) is likely the most damaging grappling attack in GURPS.

However, one thing that is missing is a damaging takedown. As anyone who’s ever been knocked down and stunned/winded can attest, getting taken down hurts, or at least can hurt. If a bully (or a giant, or a giant bully) picks you up and throws you to the ground, it can hurt.

I think there are two ways using the rules to try and simulate this.

Damage From Thrown Objects

The first way to do it is to treat certain attacks as effectively throwing the foe to the ground, using the thrown objects rules in the Basic Set (p. B355). If a Trained ST 14 (BL 40) fighter wants to fling his 160-lb. foe to the ground (4xBL), he’ll do thrust damage, at -1 per 2d, rounding down. This is 1d-1 for ST 14.

I’d probably treat this as follows: You must execute a Force Posture Change to force your foe prone, and this should be an All-Out Attack (Strong) . . . but you don’t get the bonus for it, that’s the cost of admission to the thrust damage. You must have (and spend) Control Points to set the max damage, as well as impart any DX penalties to throw him and have him land badly. Your foe may reduce damage with Breakfall.

That’s not a complete rule, but that’s the concept. For most humans, you’re talking about thrust-1 which is basically striking damage.


The other way to do it is to simulate this as a collision with the ground, probably from roughly half the height of either the grappler or the target. Let’s say the target (I’ll get to why in a moment). This would typically be falling from 1 yard against a hard object, which means typically you’ll be suffering based on the falling velocity of 5 yards/sec, so 10 HP x 5 yds/sec x 2 = 1d.

That means that the thrown object or falling rules seem about the same for human scale. Not sure if it matters, then, which you use.

As is usual in the rules, Acrobatics or Breakfall can be used to mitigate the damage from a fall, and breakfall defaults to Wrestling or Judo. Certain games that involve a lot of collisions and being thrown to the ground, like football, hockey, and rugby, might buy a Technique Adaptation perk to allow Breakfall to default to the appropriate Sports skill.

Again, the attacker would spend Control Points to set the max damage.

Attack and Defend, Injury or Stun

In many cases, the damage from a takedown is likely incidental. This would be the plain-vanilla case of a usual Force Posture Change, where you roll 1d-3, and 50% of the time, there’s no impact to absorb. But I’ve seen enough people get landed on, or fall badly, and get winded or even concussed from takedowns that were emphatically not judo throws to desire a mechanic.

Now, this could just be a bad roll on the Grappling Critical Misses Table from Pyramid #3/61. After all, it doesn’t happen every match. I suspect, though, that given how relatively easy it was to take someone down and have it end badly for them when they did not know what they were doing, or anticipate the fall, that most of the time, such a takedown is not damaging because either the grappler doesn’t want to make it damaging (spend CP) and risk hurting a friend or getting disqualified in a competition, or the defender is reasonably trained and can mitigate damage with a Breakfall roll (see Martial Arts, pp. 68-69).

How many HP?

The nice thing about basing the takedown damage on the target is that each character can pre-calculate how much he risks taking when being taken down. It’s just 2 x HP x Falling Velocity/100 from half your height.

For SM +0 critters, that’s 1 yard, which means you will take damage equal to 0.1 x HP in dice. That’s just nice and easy.

First, though, you’re going to want to know if your HP are from weight or grit. Here are some guidelines for this for fleshy critters:

This will set rational limits on how much damage you can take from a fall if your character has HP disproportionate to his mass. Note that rounding conventions make this even easier to figure damage: if you are falling from 1 yard, 7-9 HP takes 1d-1, 10-12 HP takes 1d, 13-15 HP takes 1d+1.  That’s about it.

Fleshbag HP are just 2xcube root of weight in lbs, and the velocity from a fall is on p. B431 for non-humans.

If you decide to add your own weight to the fall, an All-Out Attack that has you matching posture, you may claim the +1 per die or +2 bonus for AoA(Strong), and figure HP as if you and your foe’s mass were added together. So if our 250-lb guy wanted to drop the hurt on a 160-lb. foe, velocity stays 5, but weight is now 410lbs, for 15 HP, adding in AoA(Strong) to get 1d+1, +2 for strong, is 1d+3. This can still be mitigated by breakfall, but could be quite painful.

Parting Shot

I think in general this rule is for those who really think you should be able to hurt people on a takedown. Like maybe this guy. who notes that you can’t really do a damaging takedown in GURPS with Wrestling.

Having this be a freebie with a takedown using GURPS RAW isn’t probably cool. The disadvantages of being taken to the ground are legion in GURPS, and that’s probably reward unto itself.

Still, being tossed to the ground while (say) wearing 100 lbs of steel should probably suck. Likewise, there are lots of ways to be kinda evil when you do a takedown, which you can maybe model with either a Dual-Weapon Attack or Rapid Strike (the usual way of ensuring you don’t get a freebie in GURPS is to take large penalties to get it done).

Anyway, this was on my list of things to cover for a while, and the comment I linked to above reminded me.

There are a few ways to model it, but it will add some die rolls if you allow it willy-nilly. With Control Points, though, you have to give something up (the CP, by spending them) to injure someone badly, which means you have to work for it.

On, one last thing: I’d only use the Damage From Thrown Objects rule for flinging someone down after a Pickup, when you’re actually throwing them. Otherwise, I’d use falling.

I’m a bit laid up for computer typing, having “bottomed out” on a kids’ trampoline over the Turkey Day travel break. This squished an already-injured lumbar spine like a sweet potato during Thanksgiving (going with that theme) and so ’tis hard for me to sit for too long.

Still, while I’ve got a few ideas of what’s coming blog-wise, I thought I’d ask if there are any particular topics or issues that people would like to see more on?
Interviews: I’m still working on the one with +Kenneth Hite. I dropped him a line a few days ago, and I expect he’ll get back to me as schedule allows. I’m also going to do a small one about helping people write for Pyramid Magazine with +Christopher R. Rice, since that little project is going pretty well. I’d love to interview some of the guys who do +Pathfinder Roleplaying Game in a big way, since they’re the 800-lb. gorilla of the industry, and I’d love to ask some business-related questions about how to nurture and grow RPGing in general.
Grappling: Still have a bunch of topics that come up on grappling and Technical Grappling. 

Campaign Writeups: Well, I’m down to zero games, alas. My Wednesday game with +Nathan Joy playing through Jade Regent using GURPS Dungeon Fantasy is still on . . . for them. I have a conflict until the winter passes, as my 90-minute weekly conference call with the development/integration group in Malaysia has shifted to that night. I enjoyed playing in +Christian Blouin‘s highly immersive Tolkein-inspired GURPS campaign . . . but I have terrible sound issues and my speaker/monitor setup gives everyone else bad feedback. I spend zero time playing and all the time fiddling with settings. So unless I can fix that (and I’m not a computer sound guy), I’m out of that for everyone’s sanity.
GURPS 101 and Melee Academy: These will be making a reappearance, thanks to a few ideas shared between the usual suspects.
Pathfinder Read-Through: Hmm. I supposed I could pick this up, having dropped it a while ago like a hot rock when I hit the 100-page chapter on Spells.
Campaigns of my Own: Still flirting with starting a game of my own. Nothing helps you have neat ideas for articles, books, and blog posts like actually playing your own game. While I suspect that DF would be easy, I’d really like to explore Monster Hunters more, and it would get me back to doing stuff with firearms as well as grappling, which is what this blog used to be about more frequently.
Pyramid Magazine Issue Reviews: I tend to self-servingly write up full reviews for issues in which I have articles, but I could certainly do more of this.

All in all, still having fun with the blog, so it will certainly continue. I’ll be doing a lot more writing over Xmas and New Year’s though – I have something like four projects on hold, one of which I need to improve or just post here on the blog.