A discussion on the price of Talents and Wildcards led me to think about alternate pricing schemes for things.

Without getting into too much detail, ability scores are a pretty good deal in GURPS.

ST is probably priced pretty well as-is. DX and IQ are arguably undercosted for what you get. How many skills are there in GURPS? Something like 300? And a bonus to DX or IQ gives a boost to probably about half of them.

I’ve toyed with altering the costs of attributes as follows:

ST: No change – 10/level
DX: 40/level
IQ: 40/level
HT: Probably 15-20 per level

HT is probably undercosted for what it gives you in any case. I ran smack into this when I wrote The Last Gasp – adding benefits to HT (in the form of it gave you a store of Action Points) ran into issues pretty fast, and given the value of HT rolls for avoiding death, I’d lean higher rather than lower. A character with HT 14-16 is pretty nigh indestructable until you get thrashed for 6xHP (from HP to -5xHP).

What would that accomplish?

Well, for one, it would finally make 15-point Talents a bit more attractive.

DX and IQ are a bit the ultimate wildcard skill – and at 12/level for wildcards (cinematic use of a large cluster of skills) vs. 20/level for DX or IQ, well, hard to justify.

Of course, points spent on Wildcards give you Destiny/Bonus points as of Monster Hunters, which is a powerful differentiator. But 12 vs 40 per level means for +3 to a Wildcard skill you have done nice things relative to +1 to all skills.

Of course, is +1 to DX or IQ at 40 points really just a tad less than 3x the value of, say, Combat Reflexes?

Hrm. CR is pretty darn useful.

Clearly, opening up this pathway is a bit of a rathole. But for what you get, I do think DX, IQ, and HT are pretty cheap. And higher attribute costs would prevent niche-stealing, since those points are better invested in Talents and Skills – that which defines a niche.

OK, let’s start shredding this idea. ūüôā

Inspired by a post from +Patrick Halter.

OK, so you’ve got a highly competent character. Maybe it’s DF. Maybe it’s Monster Hunters. But with 250-400 points and a smackdown focus, you can bring the hurt with the best of them.

Problem is, you’re new to GURPS. Your GM is sitting there looking at you with that “there are six other people at the table, and my pizza’s getting cold at the same time as my beer is getting warm” look on his face.

Sure, he’s been playing GURPS for twenty years, and shows up with ten pounds of hardcover books plus every e23 supplement on a flash drive. That’s when he doesn’t just spout page references from memory.

But while you love the feel of your character, one-second-long tactical combat turns are not something you’re used to.

What to do?

Let’s start with some relatively simple stuff:

  • Ensure you can protect yourself. This means finding a space on the battlemat, if you use one, that prevents you from getting drilled from behind (where you get no defenses) in general, but with a ranged weapon especially.
  • Ensure you can protect yourself 2: Don’t ever get in a position to get ganked (gang killed, so says Urban Dictionary), because GURPS is not D&D. Hell, D&D may not be is not D&D in this respect, since being flanked is a terrible, terrible thing. But if you get surrounded, you are probably a step away from getting grappled, taken down, and murderized. Avoid it.
  • Ensure you can protect yourself 3: Critical hits aren’t just something that happens to other people. Ensure you have enough armor or Luck that you don’t get taken out of the fight by surprise on round 1. That sucks. Ask +Kevin Smyth.

Those are a few defensive basics that will keep you rolling dice and having fun with the rest of the group.

But now you want to dish out some hurt. Remember, you’re super-competent, so what can go wrong?

You need to realize that there’s such a thing as too much effective skill. Once your net skill is higher than 16, you’re not playing it right.

What you say?

Here’s the thing: your odds of rolling 14 or less on 3d6 are just about 90%. Sure, you may fail here and there, but not often. This is the point where diminishing returns start.

However, 15 and 16 have real value – they increase the odds of rolling a crit from 2% (at 14) to 5% to 10%.

So you pretty much want to try to always wind up at that skill level die roll, at the end of the day.. Got more? Good!

  • Aim for important stuff. The legs are a great target, since they are easy to cripple (more than HP/2 injury) and can be attacked at only -2. The vitals are awesome for stabs, since at -3 they provide a x3 behind-armor injury modifier. The neck is a perennial favorite. It’s -5 to hit, but doubles damage from cutting weapons. Plus: yay, decapitation. The face is also -5, and any blow to the head can cause knockdown or knockout. The skull houses the brain in humanoids, can be attacked at -7, and if you punch through the DR of the helmet and DR 2 skull (on a human) boosts all damage by x4. Big stuff there.
  • Aim for where they’re not protected. Some critters and men are well protected with armor, scales, etc. Some of these guys, however, have “chinks in their armor” which have half the DR of other areas, and are targeted at -8. If you find even your successful blows bouncing off of a frustrating amount of metal, scales, tough hide, or magically-tough cloth, eating this penalty might be key. If not, bludgeoning your foe to death mightn’t be in the cards at all. That can happen. +Peter V. Dell’Orto  and +Sean Punch are both well known for advocating encounters that are not “one scythe fits all.”
  • Depending on the other guy’s defenses, you may need to choose hitting at all over hitting something important. What does this mean? Any time you have a net skill of more than 14-16 you should consider Deceptive Attack. This is the remedy to the “U Can’t Touch This” syndrome that plagued highly competent characters in Third Edition. Deceptive Attack allows you to take -2 to your own roll in order to inflict -1 to all of your foes defenses that blow. Cadmus, my DF Warrior Saint, can occasionally wind up with Axe-24 or Axe-26 depending on how well he gets his Righteous Fury on. He can accept -10 to his attack roll and penalize his foe’s defense by -5. Defenses that are in the 10-18 range are annoying, but they’re in the steep part of the bell curve. Deceptive Attacks are great bang for the buck here.
  • Finally, hit a bunch of times. You can always Rapid Strike, for -6 to each blow, and attack twice while giving up nothing defensively. This can be important if your foe has lots of HP, or if his defenses are so high that you’re fishing for a critical hit (which denies your foe a defense roll).

These three offensive tips are a great place to start. Once you find combinations you like, write them down. It’s not even unrealistic – many fighters have moves they favor (Chuck Norris’ roundhouse kick ring a bell? No? I bet you’ve never heard of the Evil Overlord list either, then).

When you start to get used to how you like to spend your skill, things will go faster. It’ll be different depending on what you do. If you’re ST 23 and using a giant axe for a zillion points of damage, where you hit might not matter – torso is just fine, ’cause you can deliver so much damage to bisect nearly any target, while if you have lots of skill but a low-ST bow, you’re going to want to do a lot of aiming for chinks and eyes.

“It’s not the size of the nose, it’s what’s IN it that counts.”

Pretty much. Once you have enough skill, you need to spend it wisely.

If you are low-skill, you have to be more cautious, but the above advice probably still applies. You will just need to give up something (like your defenses, or parts of them, or a Fatigue Point or two) to leverage some of these, and you may not have enough skill to leverage several at once.

Just a side-note, and a thank-you.

My article, Delayed Gratification, appeared in Pyramid #3/52: Low-Tech II, this past Thursday.

I received my check in the mail from Steve Jackson Games on Saturday.

That’s fast, professional behavior, right there.

+Steven Marsh and +Steve Jackson Games are to be commended; my understanding is this kind of alacrity is the exception, rather than the rule.

By special request!

The post on melee skill levels in GURPS broke my previous record for number of views in a day, so I guess people liked it. Enough so that the “but where’s the ranged stuff?” came as a special request, and a natural follow-on, to boot.


Ranged weapons are difficult¬†in GURPS. Oh, sure, they’re the same skill levels. And Tactical Shooting¬†even tells you what the typical range of skills are for guns: from “default” up to Guns-18 for “Exceptional hostage-rescue operators and snipers.”

But ranged weapons have a neat “yeah, but” to them – they stack on penalties faster than just about anything else in GURPS. The penalty for hitting a dude in total darkness with a stick? -10. Typical difficulty “just wing it” for an “impossible” task? Yep, -10, say for using a meditative skill in a combat environment. Hitting someone in the “center of mass,” the vitals in the chest, from 100 yards away? -10 for range and -3 additional for target size. The famous “head shot,” which in GURPS is the skull¬†hit location, which contains the brain? It’s -10 at a range of 7 yards. Seven. Yards.

Note that the fact that these penalties are large doesn’t mean I disagree with them. They actually work pretty well.

Additionally, many weapons of the typical fantasy crowd can take a while to reload and re-ready for use. Even if you look at the battle with the Uruk-Hai from Fellowship of the Rings where Legolas is going all, well, Legolasy on the orcs he’s shooting about once per second. That’s roughly half the rate of a good melee guy with Skill-22 (again: starting DF Knight level), who can lay down a Rapid Strike for two shots per second at a net of Skill-18, or even less with key advantages. His range penalty is zero for melee, and always will be.

One thing about the size-speed/range table: it’s logarithmic, meaning every -6 to skill is 10x farther away, or 10x smaller in size. So a¬†+1 bonus is actually a big deal in context¬†– it means you can hit the same exact target the same amount of the time 50% farther away than you used to.

But the real kicker here is that there are comparatively few ways to boost your skill.

Key Maneuvers and Attack Options

Many of the options that you get for melee weapons don’t translate 1:1 into the ranged arena. For one thing, one of the more important stats you have for ranged weapons is Acc, the bonus you get to hit when you take an Aim maneuver (more below).

So, what are your options:

All-Out Attack

Your only option here is Determined, and it gives you +1 rather than the usual +4 for melee.

. . . and that’s all, at least as far as things you can do without spending extra time to do it. You can give up all your defenses for¬†+1 with a ranged attack, but you can get¬†+4 for AoA(Determined) and another¬†+4 for Telegraphic Attack for melee. So given the same amount of¬†defenselessness¬† you are¬†+7 to hit advantaged in melee.

The key bit is the Aim maneuver (p. B364), which adds the weapon’s Acc, plus if you use a long-arm sling or a pistol in two hands, you can claim another¬†+1 for your weapon being Braced.

Prediction Shot

This doesn’t help you put a projectile on target, but this optional rule (found in a few books) which allows Deceptive Attack to reduce your foe’s defenses ¬†Dodge¬†on ranged attacks helps a successful hit stay¬†that way.

Some GMs and/or players do not find this realistic. So if your GM says no, you’re out of luck on this one. GURPS is a Rule Zero game.

But by and large, you are at a severe disadvantage with a ranged weapon in terms of available bonuses, and you can rapidly stack up some major penalties on your butt: most of p. B548 is one line of bad news after another.

The only other thing that might help is Suppression Fire (p. B409-410) where you can hose down a two-yard area if you can apply RoF of 5+ to it. Hit chance is 6+RoF bonus with handheld and bipod-mounted weapons, and 8+RoF bonus for vehicle-mounted and tripod-mounted ones. See below for further comment on suppression.

Alternate Rapid Fire Rule: Right now, you get a bonus to hit if you fire five or more shots (p. B373). I don’ t like that as much, because the militaries of the world have shown that firing three or four shots is a pretty good way to increase hit chances, and right now, there’s no reason to use that number. I like to change the progression so that 1-2 shots gives¬†+0, 3-4 gives +1, 5-8 gives¬†+2, and 9-16 gives¬†+3, and every x2 gives¬†+1 after that. Really, this is just shifting bonuses around, but it gives a¬†+1 to hit for semi-auto fire at RoF 3-4, which I like. This progression also works if you use it up to 16 shots, and then revert back¬†to the rules-as-written past that.

Second Alternate Rapid Fire Rule: Use the Speed/Range table, either giving +1 at 3-4 shots, +2 at 5-6, etc., or add 1, so a double-tap gives +1. Thanks to +Mark Langsdorf for the full suggestion, found in the comments below.

Vital Advantages

Certain advantages are key where ranged weapons are concerned, if you can get them.


From the point of view of point-efficiency, you’re buying the ability to add Acc to all shots¬†with a handgun, aimed or no, for 25 points. Ahem. 25 points is a minimum of¬†+6 to hit with any one skill. Acc for handguns is usually less than 3. Guns skills have pretty generous defaults, so if you’re only using the Basic Set, think hard about taking this one – it’s not worth the points. If you can convince your GM to lower the price to, say, 10 points, it becomes pretty attractive. Might even be attractive at 15 points, but not for 25. Gunslinger is also considered a cinematic advantage.

For cinematic campaigns,¬†+Hans-Christian Vortisch‘s GURPS: Gun Fu¬†adds some meat to Gunslinger. Ignoring the penalties for move and attack, full skill when shooting when riding or in a vehicle, Bulk penalties on foot, reduced penalties for Ranged Rapid Strike, and a whole host of other options, some of which may be available for realistic campaigns with a benevolent GM. On p. 16 of that book, the real key might be the Accessibility limitations he makes available by limiting the scope of the weapons to which your advantage applies, lowering the cost to get the benefit from this schtick.

Weapon Master

Another advantage that is recommended to cinematic games, this one helps with muscle-powered weapons, and the damage bonus it can provide is quite cool if your skill is DX+1 or DX+2. The other real benefit is reduced penalties for Rapid Strike (which you also get with Gunslinger).

Heroic Archer

This is an explicit variant on Gunslinger for Bows; the Basic Set alludes to it, and it’s spelled out right on on p. 45 of GURPS Martial Arts.¬†For 20 points, it stacks the Rapid Strike benefits with Weapon Master, and gives you the ability to loose arrows from a bow while on the move, and disregard penalties in close combat.

Again, Mark notes that in his DF games, the ability to ignore penalties in CC means DF Scouts simply don’t need a backup weapon. They can use their bows.

Scopes and Sights

Laser Sights¬†and Micro Reflex Sights: These boost Guns skill, not Acc, so they’re recommended acquisitions.

Bow Sights, Telescopic Sights: These add to Acc (as does Bracing a gun) and so will cost you the second required to aim.

The Basic Set restricts bonuses from aiming aids to 2xAcc; Tactical Shooting suggests max skill of 22+2xAcc. I like the second one more than the first. Of course, as Lead Playtester for Tactical Shooting, I’m very biased, but it’s a¬†fantastic¬†book.

Get to it Already

OK, with all that said, let’s take a stroll through the ranged weapon skill requirements. Let’s see what we can do with the same skill levels as melee. I’m not going to discuss defenses. By and large, you don’t parry or block with your weapons. You’re restricted to dodge, which has nothing to do with skill. If you’re All-Out Attacking, you can’t even do that. Note that you can parry with a bow, but it’ll likely ruin the bow. Your best defense is a big guy named Og or something. Maybe a velociraptor animal companion.

TL0 through TL4: Muscle-powered ranged weapons

Here we’re talking bows, crossbows, and slings. Acc ranges from 0-4, and half-damage range is a multiple of ST.


Unaimed Attack:¬†A waste of time for all concerned. Even with AoA (Determined), you have a 16% chance to hit someone at two yards.¬†If you can’t even roll if your skill falls below 3, then your max range is ten yards. Don’t bother aiming for any specific location, please. You’re going to embarrass yourself enough just aiming for “his general direction.”

Aimed Attack: Some of these weapons you really don’t get much help with the Aim maneuver. Acc 0 is pretty pointless, but multiple seconds of Aim still count. Even so, with no special rules, you’ll aim for three seconds in order to get a bonus from¬†+2 to +6, with the¬†+1 for AoA (Determined). That’s a net bonus of¬†+3 to +7, for Skill-8 to Skill-12 (and for that, you need a crossbow, the only muscle-powered ranged weapon in Basic with Acc 4). That gives you a 50% chance to hit a guy at 5 yards. Woo hoo. Maybe 7 yards if you also brace that crossbow, which will probably require some not-too-portable or decidedly anachronistic technology.

The ultimate point here is that the only viable tactic at default skill levels is to mount a crossbow to something solid like a tripod, and start aiming when your foe is at least 22 or 25 yards away, more or less. You’ll hold fire until the last moment, then try and draw a hand-held weapon before he’s on you. You must assume that your one¬†shot will miss, and then you’ll be hand-to-hand. Plan accordingly.

Unaimed Attack: You have a 37% chance to hit someone at two yards or less. You’re still wasting time trying this.

Aimed Attack: OK, with one shot every sixth second (Draw Projectile, Ready weapon, Aim, Aim, Aim, Shoot), the net bonus of¬†+3 to +7 (see above) brings you to Skill-12 to Skill-16. So you can hit a man-sized target 50% of the time at 5 yards for Skill-12 for low-Acc weapons, and 20 yards for crossbows. If you hold your fire with a crossbow, you can hit the vitals 50% of the time at 7 yards. More pertinently, at 5 yards, you have a 90% chance to hit the torso, so “hold your fire ’till you see the whites of his eyes” is legit, but you may not have time to get your hand-to-hand on if you don’t stop him in his tracks – and at low TL, unless you’re very strong, firing special projectiles, or he’s unarmored, the odds of doing enough damage to guarantee incapacitation are low.

Unaimed Attack: You have a 50% chance to hit someone at 5 yards. Meh. Still pointless. If you have time to Draw, Ready, and Shoot, you probably have time to Aim a bit.

Aimed Attack: Your net skill with a longbow will be Bow-17. That’s 90% chance to hit at 10 yards, which might even give you time to drop the bow and draw a sword, mace, or club. You can hit a torso 50% of the time at 30 yards with a bow, or 70 yards with a crossbow. If you have a braced crossbow, you can hit the vitals at 30 yards.

The hit chances here are enough to worry a mass of attackers, but probably not individuals. Recall that if you can see a shot coming, especially a single arrow, you can elect to Dodge, and the defense bonus of a shield helps to protect. So these strike home less often than a hit is rolled.

Unaimed Attack: Geez. Skill-15 and you can hit the vitals 50% of the time at 5 yards, 90% chance to hit the torso at only 3 yards, and 50% chance to hit a man-sized torso at 15 yards.

Aimed Attack: You’ve finally got enough skill, at Skill-18 to Skill-22, to combine targeting with range. You can project point fire to 100 yards with a longbow with 50% hit rate, or hit the vitals with a longbow (Acc 2) ¬†90% of the time, in combat, at 7 yards. A crossbow can do it at 15 yards. The low hit percentages at range are somewhat offset by the fact that with the right perks and skill rolls (Fast-Draw, and a Bow roll for quick-ready, but at -6) you can fire quite a few arrows by the time your foe closes the distance. Still, the warning against dodge holds at all ranges – if you’re shooting at Go Go Gadget Dodge Monkey and he can see your shots coming, you may waste a lot of arrows.

Unaimed Attack: Your 50% chance to hit is now actually somewhat decent, at 50 yards, the average mook will take ten seconds, more or less, to get to you. If you make a (wise) investment in Fast-Draw, you can shoot every other second, giving likely 4-6 shots at your foe. As he gets closer, you have a 10% chance of a critical hit at 5 yards to the torso, which negates even Dodge-Monkey’s last hope. You will essentially stop missing at 10 yards (90% to hit), and be able to snap-shoot the vitals 50% of the time at 15 yards. This tactic will be valid if you are behind a melee skirmish line, providing support. You can get relatively close, and stay close, while providing precision fire.

Aimed Attack: Ah. There’s a reason Hans put this at the top tier, and now we see what it is. Even with low-tech weapons, you’re looking at effective skill of 21 to 25. That’s a vitals shot 90% of the time with a longbow at 20 yards. You can now think about targeting the skull with a crossbow 90% of the time at 10 yards, and two times in three (net skill of 11) at 30 yards. You can project fire with a longbow to a generic man-sized target 50% of the time out to 300 yards . . . so you’re finally testing, maybe, the limits of the weapon. With a crossbow you’re probably not – with reload times what they are, you might as well “fire and drop” these, and have a very high ST crossbow, aim well, and shoot for the vitals or skull at ranges in excess of 100 yards.

Prediction Shot: I’d hold that this is the first skill level where you’re probably better off using some of your “surplus” skill, if you have any after range and location, for a shot that actually lowers the foe’s Dodge. Granted, the GM must allow it, but if he does, you may wind up being better off dropping your foe’s Dodge than keeping your skill at higher than 14. Hard to say.

Cinematically high skill, but accessible for Dungeon Fantasy characters. The prototypical bowman in DF is the Scout, and with a little tweaking, you can start shooting a ST 17 bow with Skill-24 at the start of play, by piling on the full -75 points of disads, taking Strongbow, ST 14, Arm ST¬†+1, and knocking off a point of (say) Cartography. So it’s doable. You’re also sporting Fast-Draw (Arrow)-16 and Fast-Draw (Sword)-14, so you can draw an arrow or two freely each turn. You can also get a sword ready when your foes close on you and fight at Shortsword (or broadsword, spear, or some other skill)-14, which will keep you alive but not for long at DF point levels. Good for mooks, etc. This hasn’t been required in actual play, as noted above, since getting rid of the close-combat penalties with Heroic Archer mitigates that to the point that you don’t need a backup weapon, but you will need high Dodge. Without Heroic Archer, you will want the backup, still.

+Peter V. Dell’Orto¬†helpfully notes the following with respect to some of the gymnastics I went through to get Bow-24 out of our starting Scout:


. . . it’s a real stretch to make a starting Scout with bow-24. It’s easy to get a net 24 skill, though – Heroic Archer and Weapon Master, Weapon Bond on the bow, all 8 points from Background skills to get Bow-20, 4 points from quirks for Bow-21 (and 1 on Weapon Bond.) Buy an Acc 3 bow (longbow for 200, composite for 900) and you are shooting at a 25 skill, 22 if you Move and Attack.¬†

You’re just focusing on also getting a ST 17 bow, which is a terrifically hard combo to do on 250+50+5 using the Scout template and $1000 in starting cash. If you built a custom archer, you could. I’d say just worry about the skill – you’re concerned about hitting, not damage, otherwise you’d also need to start talking fine arrows, poison, bodkin points, etc. It’s kind of a departure from the point.¬†

So I’d just let the ST 17 bow thing go, and say a straight-up Scout from DF can get a new skill 25 if all he cares about is shooting bows, 24 if not (spend 4 quirk points on something else, or 4 background skill points on actual background skills). You don’t need to even tweak the template to do that. You only need to change stuff if you want raw skill and lots of damage, too.¬†

At this skill level, though:

Unaimed Attack: You can snapshot the vitals (-3) 90% of the time (effective skill 14) at 30 yards. You can shoot for the eye (-10) and hit 50% of the time at 10 yards (and a miss by 1 hits the face). If you have a target 100yds away, you have a 90% chance of hitting him even without aiming. You can Fast-Draw an arrow and absorb the -1 penalty to draw and shoot a bow (two skill rolls, with the -6 halved twice for Weapon Master and Heroic Archer) at Skill-23 every round (hello, Legolas . . . where have you been all my life), which means you can do this to the vitals at 20 yards every second at a 90% hit rate, or even the brain (-7) at 5 yards. This is pretty much exactly what our favorite pretty elf was doing in Fellowship, and this is more or less the skill level to do it (note he was being attacked effectively one at a time with conveniently staggered foes). With only a few more points, perhaps +2 to +4 to skill, you can do this to the eye, like he did.

Note that Skill-24 is the cap on a weapon with Acc 1, with or without aim, using the optional rule from Tactical Shooting!

Aimed Attack: With Aim bonuses that take raw skill up to, or past, the max-skill cap suggested in Tactical Shooting (and which you should probably throw right out the window in Dungeon Fantasy), this is an effective skill of 28 to as high as 32 depending on what you’re doing. At this point, eye shots and brain shots are your go-to, since you can eat that -7 or -10 at a minimum of 5 yards, and maybe as far away as 50 yds. You can menace a foe with a 90% chance to hit with a longbow farther than the bow can shoot, so you need to start always picking your targets. For a ST 17 composite bow, you can hit the vitals (-3) 90% of the time (Bow-14) to 300 yds, which is still within your 1/2D range with 1d+4, and with the proper arrows, that could be 1d+4 (2) pi, putting 1d injury even through DR 8.

At close range, if you’re allowed a Prediction Shot,¬†you will have plenty of skill left over to drop Dodge. At 20 yards (-6) to the vitals (-3) with a composite bow and plenty of aim (Bow-30), you can take a -6 to hit and inflict a nice -3 to Dodge and still roll vs. Bow-15, increasing your chance of a critical hit to on a 5 instead of a 4.

TL5 through TL9-ish: Firearms and railguns

Unaimed Fire

There’s not that much different with unaimed fire for any sort of weapon, with a few important exceptions:

Targeting Aids: Any aids that add to Guns skill, instead of Acc, will help you here. Most of the fancy-schmancy targeting aids are only good for +1 to Guns (though occasionally much more to Acc).

Rate of Fire: You don’t have to get ¬†your full-auto on to make this count. With a pump-action shotgun, fully legal nearly everywhere in the USA, you can put 18 pellets into the air at once firing two shells filled with 00 or #1 buckshot. Even with the standard GURPS Rapid Fire rules, this is worth¬†+4 to hit, and will do something like 1d+1 pi damage per pellet that hits. Not much against any sort of body armor, but that’s a huge chance to hit. Even so, typical full-auto weapons can rock out¬†+2 or so (+3 using my alternate rule suggestion above) in spray-and-pray mode.

Magazine Capacity: The ability for a shooter to take 1-3 shots per second until his magazine runs out is a bigger deal for the low-skilled than high. Each roll of the dice is a chance to get lucky (and at low skill, that’s what you’re hoping for) and put a bullet on target.

What does this mean?

Default Guns skill is Easy, so you get a quick boost there. Mostly, this means “you miss” even at close range, as with low-TL weapons, but with a shotgun, that¬†+4 to hit from Rapid Fire means you have a 50% chance to hit at 2 yards, which is not as uncommon an engagement range as people might think. You can, even without the shotgun, look to try and claim the¬†+1 for All-Out Attack (Determined), and the additional¬†+1 if you can buy a gun with a laser sight (most likely for a pistol) or collimating/reflex sight (pistols and longarms). That’s one chance in four of a hit from two yards, or about one chance in ten or fifteen at five yards . . . which happens to be the average hit chance of real-life encounters at the same distance. Note that full-auto fire from even a good SMG at this skill level will still mostly punch holes in things other¬†than your target. Volume of fire does not make you not suck, it only makes you suck slightly less.

One point in Guns gets you DX, which is Guns (Whatever)-10 for Joe Average. Five to ten yards distance is -2 to -4 to hit, which our putative shotgunner can offset through volume of buckshot. So with a little training, you’re hitting 50-75% of the time, and a good roll can put a bunch of pellets on target (with Rcl 1, you hit with 1+Margin of Success pellets).

Why am I focusing on shotguns? At low skill (and in this case low is probably “12 or less”) that buckshot bonus is your ticket to actually accomplishing something. Even full-auto weapons of normal output (600-900 rounds per minute, or RoF 10-15) aren’t enough to get out of this hole.

You’re 90% to the torso at 7 yards with the shotgun with an AoA; 10 yards with the proper boost to Guns with the right sight. This is close-in nastiness, but for unaimed fire where you’re just banging off rounds, it’s likely your best tactic. Spray-and-pray with an SMG ¬†or full-auto carbine is a 3-5 yard game, though a collimating sight is more likely on those, so this is the first time SMGs/rifles equal shotguns for hit rate, and both¬†will surpass in damage. At Guns-12 and higher, you’re looking at preferring rifles and submachine guns over shotguns, finally, as offensive weapons.

Suppression Fire
One trick not mentioned yet is suppression fire, which pours fire into an area and rolls at 6+Rapid Fire bonuses to hit. This is a good¬†way to utilize relatively low-skill fighters, though I’d probably limit the roll to 6+Rapid Fire bonuses or¬†real effective skill+Rapid Fire – as long as your net skill to put bullets into a range is larger than the 6, use rules normally. That might even be the real rule.

This gets loving attention in¬†Tactical Shooting,¬†with the key bit being that near-misses can trigger Fright Checks. This is a darn good way to deny movement and keep heads down. Go read the book. It’s worth it.

Unless, of course, you want to slow down and try . . .

Aimed Fire

TL5-9 adds a lot of oomph to what you can do when you Aim, since you can get some pretty appreciable bonuses thrown in, in addition to the larger accuracy of longarms.

Targeting Aids and Scopes: This is where the real impact is made, though it can take many seconds to get there. Your typical 10x scope is a +3 bonus to Acc, and I believe that stacks with rangefinder bonuses.

Inherent Weapon Accuracy: While handguns are in the Acc 0 through Acc 2 space, much like bows (this isn’t too much a cinematic convention – a modern olympic super-expensive target bow can be Acc 4 based on shots I’ve seen myself – like putting one 8mm arrow through another at 10 yds), SMGs and rifles can push Acc 6.

Precision Aiming: GURPS High Tech¬†introduced the Precision Aiming technique, which can exceed the usual¬†+2 for additional seconds of aim. You still can’t, in reality, exceed the suggested cap of 22+2xAcc for any¬†reason – that’s the mechanical accuracy of the platform in a bench-rest. But with an Acc 6 firearm, that cap is Skill-34.

Bracing: You can claim an extra¬†+1 using a two-handed pistol stance or using a sling with a long-arm. In TL7+, this is likely “how you learned,” with that being especially true at TL8, where the odds of needing that other hand to swing a sword or control a horse’s reins are pretty low.

Rapid Fire: Well, I suppose you can still push the¬†+2 or +3 for shooting a lot after spending three seconds to aim. It ain’t elegant, but remember that¬†+2 is “same result at double¬†the range,” and a good roll can hit with multiple bullets. So there might be something here. Note I’m not going to talk about it much below. Consider it an Easter egg.

So our notional Aimed Fire case will be looking at +1 for AoA(Determined), +1 for Braced in most cases, +2 for taking additional time without the Precision Shooting Technique, plus Acc and any bonuses you get for the first second of aiming with a scope.

How about our nominal combat rifle. A rifle with Acc 4 (for a carbine) or Acc 5 (for a rifle). Maybe with a x4 scope on it (+2). So with a few seconds of aim, you add +10 or +11 to skill. Higher tech weapons with computerized rangefinders and magnifying scopes built-in can probably increase this by +2 or +3 more. That means that you can (for example) roll against full skill to 100-200 yards against a man-sized target, and if you hit probably do 5d-7d of damage.

At combat distances, aimed fire becomes positively lethal. As it should.

Pistols are in the same accuracy class as low-tech ranged missile weapons (Acc 0-2), but can usually claim the bonus for braced and maybe a laser sight. This means that net Acc is probably 1-4 . . . so you can use the descriptions for Aimed Fire right out of the box.

SMGs push the upper bound of accuracy for muscle-powered ranged weapons (mostly Acc 3-4). They may also mount scopes of typical combat power in the¬†+1 or +2 to Acc, and snipers may well push¬†+3 to +5 for extremes (+3 is a standard 10x scope, which is plenty in most cases). For carbines and rifles, you’re talking Acc 4-5 plus scopes and targeting aids, and likely braced for a sling.

SMGs: you can probably expect to achieve the descriptive results of muscle-powered ranged weapons at 1-3 points of skill lower. So Skill-10 with an SMG is probably as good as Skill-12 with a composite bow or crossbow.

Combat Rifles: Acc 4-5 vs the 2-3 of typical bows. Bracing is easier. Scopes are legion for another¬†+1 to +2. So you can achieve muscle-powered ranged weapon results with skill levels 3-6 points lower than the descriptions. That means a Guns (Rifle)-12 combatant who can Aim (+5), Brace (+1 for Brace, assumes AoA(Determined) for¬†+1), using a x4 scope (+2), and taking his extra two seconds (+2) has an effective skill of Rifle-23 before he starts subtracting for range and target. He’s 90% at 20 yds to the vitals. That’s as good as Bow-18 with a longbow, a¬†+6 advantage over our bowman.

Hunting and Sniper Rifles: Bigger scopes (+3 or more), higher Acc (Acc 6, or even 7 if you want to pay for it). Likely using Match-Grade Ammo (+1 Acc on weapons with Acc 4 and higher) probably gives a¬†+3 advantage in aimed fire over even Combat rifles, meaning Joe Solider with Rifle-12 with all that kit is pushing an effective Rifle-24 to Rifle-26, meaning vitals shots at 90% at 30-70yds. That may not seem like much, but that’s someone with only a few points in the skill.

TL9-ish through TL12: Lasers, Grazers, and Blasters (oh my!)
There’s actually not too much more to say about ultra-tech weaponry. The sights and scopes that are listed in Ultra Tech really aren’t that much better than some of the late TL8 scopes in High-Tech.

The big bad, though, is that lasers and other zero time-of-flight weapons are Acc 6 for a pistol, Acc 12 for most rifles, and Acc 18 for mounted weaponry. That’s a¬†+6 skill level advantage over sniper rifles¬†for your bog-standard laser assault weapon.

Electromagnetic weapons maybe are +1 Acc over their conventional cousins in pistol form, and roughly equivalent to +1 better for longarms.

Parting Shot

All fighters are more or less equally ineffective when not pausing to aim. There’s a lesson there.

Low-Tech weapons suffer from poor rate of fire unless proper investment in skill (Fast-Draw is one of the best points or four you’ll spend if you’re an archer, I suspect), and having enough skill to eat the Quick-Shooting penalty of -6 means you go all Legolas on someone only if you’re really very skilled.

Any sort of range penalty (and they stack up fast) makes unaimed fire mostly pointless at any tech level.

You can boost up your chances a bit by using high volume of fire (like a shotgun or full-auto weapon), but a quick analysis of the stats shows this is still a game when you’ve got only a bad guy in front of you at ten yards or less.

The name of the game in ranged weapons is aimed fire. You can even do sequential aimed shots, one per turn, using the Follow-Up Shots rule (Tactical Shooting, p. 14). At this point, high TL matters, since high Acc, scopes, and other devices become telling.

Blogger has me at over 10.000 views since I started, less than two months ago. Google Analytics started up for me a few weeks after I started, but has me at 6500 views in about 60 days.

It’s way more fun to write stuff when you know people are watching.

What’s in the hopper?

Well, I promised I’d break down ranged weapons the way I did Melee Skills. I hope to have that ready by next GURPS-day. I also need to wade into Feats in my Pathfinder read-through. I’ve also got a few idle thoughts on alternate stats costing for GURPS. Finally, at least for now, I’d like to ponder a bit about real fights vs fights on the silver screen, and how a fight ebbs and flows.

I’m sure there will be more discussion of ballistics and shooting. That’s inevitable.

But why do this at all?

Well, initially it was a way to share a few thoughts on RPGing. But the power of the interactions with so many diverse people – but all connected through interest and passion for RPGing – has really fueled my creativity. Other than the stuff I spew out here, I’ve got at least two or three Pyramid articles – maybe four, now that I think on it – that I want to write, plus maybe even another e23 supplement.

Most of that is due to my interactions with all yous guys

Hey, I’m originally from Philly. I can say that.

In the meantime, thanks for reading!

The latest issue of Pyramid, #3/52: Low-Tech II, is out. I’ve got an article in it!

Called Delayed Gratification, it’s an option for a different way of handling the Feint maneuver in GURPS, treating it as a variant of an actual attack, rather than a Quick Contest of somewhat-nebulous intention.

It’s not a long article, or particularly crunchy by the standards of The Deadly Spring or The Last Gasp.

But I think it’s a good add to the list of potential combat options for players. I look forward to hearing what people think about it.


+Sean Punch posted a blurb on the SJG Forums, and I reproduce the capsule of my article here:

GURPS offers many ways to lower your opponents’ defenses: Deceptive Attack, Feint, and so on. But if you want Delayed Gratification, try the Setup Attack. Based on realistic fighting techniques, this new combat option gives you a way to launch an offensive that may cost your opponent his Hit Points and his defenses.

My post on what guns do in GURPS and storytelling got me thinking about false precision in games that rate damage by HP ablation.

I’ll pick on GURPS, but DnD/Pathfinder is, in its way, not much different. Ironically, I don’t think people really notice as much in Pathfinder, since the entire point of an attack is to whittle away HP until the foe is Dead. Or Dying.

GURPS is a bit different, in that there are a few basically devastating outcomes (because of the one-second time scale) that don’t require HP ablation. You can KO someone with any blow to the skull, for example. Knockdown and stunning, both of which don’t necessarily require large HP subtractions. And lastly, criticals, and crippling of the limbs.

Anyway, here’s the thing. Let’s start with pistols. In common calibers, from about .380ACP to .45ACP (and maybe even including things like the .50 GI) are probably “equally ineffective” when it comes to doing their job. While the .380 is probably a bit anemic, and other cartridges like the 10mm Auto (720 J or so, 200 gr projectiles available? Ow.) are probably on the other end, there are no surefire manstoppers that achieve the goal due to size and power alone – everyone will tell you that shot placement (and a good bit of pscyhology, in addition to physiology) is at least as important, if not more, than joules, kg m/s, and caliber.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s likely, perhaps certainly – true that on the margin, higher energy and momentum and caliber are more likely to achieve incapacitation. But until you up the ante to things like a .44 Magnum (in a pistol caliber), or a .223 or similar high-powered cartridge, you’re really saying that in certain edge cases, you’re slightly more likely to get’r’done than you were before.

What I’m about to do is clearly the act of pondering doing away with Hit Points and going to a wounding mechanism based on something like a HT roll, probably penalized. Probably something like “every HP/2 of penetrating injury is -1 to a HT roll; the more by which you fail, the worse off you are.”

I’m not going to work this one out in detail. Just suffice to say: despite my endless fiddling with firearms game mechanics that are super-detailed in resolution, the world doesn’t really work that way when people are involved; even armor plate is frustratingly variable under real-world conditions.

Continuation of the GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Campaign following the Pathfinder Jade Regent Adventure Path.

GM: +Nathan Joy
Players: +Mark Langsdorf , +Theodore Briggs , +Kevin Smyth , +Emily Smirle , +Douglas Cole

This will be an abbreviated tale, but let me start with the conclusion: we played for four hours in one giant combat that involved five PCs, and no fewer than fourteen adversaries. We finished the combat in a very satisfactory manner, and play was brisk, rules disputes were minimal, and severe consequences were suffered by the PCs due to battle injuries. 
GURPS is very capable of fast, fun, detailed play. 
We started the game having just finished being attacked by two swarms of ravens after opening the unlocked door to the hall. Thumvar and Cadmus were inside the hall, having entered as part of the combat previously. I honestly don’t recall if Cadmus and Thumvar had both entered and then were attacked (I think so), or one or both of us entered, and then the other rushed in for support. 
Brother Michel, who has a strong Honesty disad, objected to home invasion throughout the session until a key bit of info was revealed. More on that later.

A word here: Honesty is an annoying disadvantage for a group of murder-hobos to have among them, and Cadmus has it too, as a temporary part of a deal with his Goddess that granted him some cool abilities after a crit on a general prayer for Smite. Michel’s player really dug into his disad here – as he should have. What we were doing inside that house was at best questionable. We suspected evil was afoot, but it was all circumstantial. There were some principles/laws/customs that would allow us to act like the vigilantes we were, but they weren’t obvious at the time. I’m not sure to what extent modern western legal theory applies in Golarion, but there’s no question we were pushing our luck, and Michel kept us . . . well, if not honest, at least informed. It was a good bit of roleplaying.

Anyway, the hall was empty – naturally we suspected ninjas. They’re always there when you can’t see ’em, after all. It was on two levels, the lower hall where we’d fought the ravens, and the upper wings, which had benches and tables overlooking the lower hall. I think there may have been some doors up there.
Thumvar flew up to the balcony to check things out. Michel would not enter the building, and was down a few HP and FP for spellcasting. Cadmus went to him and provided healing (he was down 6 HP, I think), which would only take Cadmus 6 minutes to heal thanks to Flesh Wounds. So mostly fully refreshed, we . . .

. . . and then Java wigged out on me totally. Massive errors in MapTool caused by the auto-update to Java7 that are incompatible with MT build 87. I had to log out, shut down, log back on, reinstall Java6 Update 41, find that didn’t work, then get help from our resident IT gurus (actually, that may well be everyone but me in that group), and replace my mt-cfg file pointer with a direct pointer to C:blahblahJava6 instead of the generic pointer. This should also let me run Java6 only for that, and Java7 for everything else. Woot, thanks to Bruno, but when I returned to play . . .

Ninjas! Scads of them!
Oops. That was probably an interface error. No ninjas here. Move along.
Anyway, long story less long: Brody opens a door and maybe walks in.

Then a door opens, and we see a freakin’ were-bear and a few thugs. Nate is borrowing the weres from GURPS Monster Hunters, so they’re kinda badass. 30 HP and some DR.

We prepare for battle – Thumvar fast-draws his axe, Cadmus asks the blessings of Pharasma, anticipating combat, and gets his Righteous Fury on. Michel is bitterly disappointed that we’re all “GRRR!” since we’re home invaders and haven’t the right. Brody hears the commotion and begins to walk out of the room he was exploring. And then Staver draws a couple of arrows and looses them at the Were-bear. As Staver’s player stated: “Staver has the ethics of a cat.”

So battle was on for real. Michel and Staver form up to Cadmus’ left and right, Thumvar gets in the bear+2xThug’s faces at the door from which they’re emerging.

Very soon after this, more ninjas show up, Michel asks if we can all just get along, put our weapons down, and talk. A ninja attacks Michel, who’s on Cadmus’ left side and in his line of sight; he does a Shield Wall block for him. Staver’s foe starts directly behind Cadmus, unseen, and Staver gets badly murderized by one of those pop-up ninjas in their first round of combat. And in the next round, Brody gets badly, badly stabbed. Possibly mortal wound, definitely negative HP . . . 

In retrospect, this was a tough game for Kevin, and he wound up spending a lot of the game working on a replacement character in the background. Brody got it right at the beginning of a four-hour session, or maybe midway through if there were multiple stabbings involved. We were desperately trying to think of ways to mitigate the damage. I don’t think he had any spare CP to use to mitigate wounds. He didn’t have any Destiny points (borrowed from Monster Hunters), nor was he using Thief! wildcard skill to make the wound a Flesh Wound. We’d done the Tactics check at the beginning of the fight, but Brody was not in Thumvar’s line of sight, so couldn’t benefit from a bequeathed re-roll. Ultimately, he had to “just take it.” There might be a lesson here, something +Sean Punch brought up, about keeping the group more together, but maybe not. We weren’t that far apart. Just bad luck.

 At this point, critical information is revealed: Ninja assassins are considered Other. They are “kill on sight” legal, and those associating with them are brought along for the ride. This is a big deal, since it unconstrained the lot of us for full-on combat.
Without going through a blow-by blow, some of my remembered highlights and notes:

  • Righteous Fury is something I’ve mentioned before. It’s a spectacular physical power-up, and Nate has been kind and allows me to roll the three 1d6 rolls and allocate them how I like. I nearly always take the highest roll and give it to DX, the second highest and increase ST, and the lowest goes to HT. This time, I rolled 5, 4, 2, which increased the chracter’s point value by 160! ST 18, DX 18, HT 14. This gave me Axe-24, Shield-22, and with my large shield (Shield Wall negates the -2 for large shields; a wonderful perk) and Combat Reflexes, he has Parry-19 and Block-18. Shrivener, Cadmus’ named possession, does 3d+3 (2) cut damage on a successful hit. That can punch through as much armor on an average roll as a .30-06 . . .
  • His first move was possibly rules-illegal, but we let it slide. He spun and did a rapid strike, hitting first one foe, then stepping and hitting the other. Both were killed or incapacitated. I’m not sure if you can step in the middle of a rapid strike or not; the group decided on yes, but I’ve got a question out to The Powers That Be on this one. Skill levels as high as this enable some truly epic moves. If I would have had Weapon Master, lowering the Rapid Strike penalties to -3 each instead of -6, accounting for four foes per turn would not have been out of the question.

    Edit: Kromm himself commented on this: it’s legal. I paste his comment below in the post in full, since it’s just that useful:

    FYI, the step allowed by the Attack maneuver can come at any time on your turn: before the attack, after the attack, or between attacks if you have more than one. There’s nothing illegal about taking an Attack maneuver, declaring a Rapid Strike, and then attacking at -6, stepping, and attacking at -6. You can’t do this with Dual-Weapon Attack, because that’s simultaneous (and also easier, so suck it up!).

  • Thumvar has DR 14. This is a phenomenal equalizer for many things, and even with Cadmus’ power-up, I’d give mad props to Thumvar in most combat situations. His trademark is a dual-weapon attack with an edged shield and an axe, and he’ll often rack up 15+ points of cutting damage, maybe on each. He eventually wound up dispatching the werebear with two huge blows after Cadmus had crippled its leg (more on that later).
  • I may have said this before, but +Mark Langsdorf is right: if you don’t pay the low fee to silver your weapons in a DF campaign, you’re either inexperienced (me) or dumb (hopefully not me). That being said, though we’d talked about getting Shrivener silvered, we didn’t actually do it. Don’t forget.
  • Cadmus got bull-rushed from behind by the were-bear. He knocked me one hex over, but did not knock me down. Being strong and big helps a lot in this situation – I think the bear rolled 2d+something physical damage, with double-knockback for his slam. I took 4 points of damage even through DR 9, so this was a mightly blow. We started calling the were-bear Ditka or the Refridgerator after that.
  • The fight was basically over when after getting slammed, Cadmus spun and chopped at Ditka’s knee, landing the blow and doing 18(2) raw damage, which was enough to cripple the leg (yay!) but not to take it right off – between the DR and 30HP this guy was a BMF.
  • Towards the end of the fight, I tried once again to do something that was going to be a Moment of Awesome. Committed Attack (Long) to get into a Thug’s hex, use Judo Throw to toss him down, then kill him with an axe blow. Judo Throw defaults from Axe/Mace for me (that’s an allowable Technique Adaptation perk), so I had effectively Judo Throw-24 . . . and the Thug managed to make both defense rolls. Again. I have yet to pull off any nifty grappling stuff in combat, despite several attempts. Sigh.
After that, having dispatched a couple ninja, maybe 3-5 thugs, and the were-bear, everyone else started to head for the door. Thumvar, in his own moment of awesome, actually flies to the door and sizes up what equipment the fleeing foes are carrying, deciding whether or not to kill ’em all or let ’em escape by judging the quality of the plunder.
A fine way to end the night. 

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!

More Skills!

Picking up from where we left off, and hopefully I won’t miss anything big like using Bluff to feint and deny a foe his DX bonus . . . which is apparently the trigger for Sneak Attack, the Rogue’s raison d’etre.


“GRAR! G’mornin!”

                 –Random Viking from “How to Train your Dragon.”

This skill seems to have two primary uses: temporarily increasing the friendliness of a creature to force them to help you, and the ability to cause foes to become “shaken.” This is not detailed here, but can be found on p. 568 in the Appendices. -2 to attack rolls, skill checks, saving throws, and ability checks. Not bad at all.

This is the place where you go to know things, and given that the Pathfinder world of Golarion is not the world we live in, expect to be rolling against this a lot to find out things your character knows but you as a player don’t. The scope of the skill is mostly vague – not a bad thing.

Hidden Lore: The listed use of this skill that’s going to appeal is to use it to gain knowledge about foes and critters (but I repeat myself). The more obscure the creature, the more difficult the DC. It gives you a “useful fact,” which could be life-saving things like “will drain levels,” or “only magic weapons can harm it,” or “will cause your valuable magic items to dissolve into goo.”  That’s handy data, right there.

Working with language, including speaking and writing, but not only that. Structure and context will allow you to decipher most languages given time.

It’s hard, though: Base DC is 20, and goes right up to 30, which means you’ll need a lot of levels in this one before you’re doing this casually. It’s a prime candidate for Taking 20, since that means you work at the relatively fast pace of one page per 20 minutes for “ordinary text.”

Every rank in Linguistics gives you another language. Ten ranks is ten languages, and there are 21 “common” languages listed. So you won’t speak everything, but you’ll speak a lot.

Hidden Lore: Creating and detecting forgeries. Plot hook made in heaven, and a nice use of a noncombat skill for intrigue. The opposed skill is also Linguistics, so this can be a big deal – you have to watch out for Bards, Clerics, Rogues, and Wizards, but likely you’ll blow away all them warrior types. You really don’t need to see my identification, but if you want to, it’s right here. And totally authentic. Bite me. Well, this is Pathfinder; you shouldn’t say that – too many opportunities to be taken at your word.

The only surprise to me is that there are classes for which this is not a class skill. Fighters don’t need Perception? Please. I know, I know, you have to spread some of these around, but Perception checks – the ability to discern and thus react to your environment – are so fundamentally key to combat that I choke on this a bit

I’ll get over it.

Just talking about my own experience with Pel, my 4th-level Rogue, he’s got Per +11. He will continue to invest as many ranks in Per as he can get, and if he can find +5 Goggles of Perception he’ll wear those to bed. It’s just so damn useful.

Anyway, some sample DCs are given, and some of them can open your eyes to things to do – maybe in a way that’s disruptive to the game if your GM disagrees. For example, someone’s hiding out in the shadows and is going to fire an arrow at you. He’s 60 feet away. You can hear the sound of the bow being drawn, if you’re good: +6 DC for being 60 feet away on top of a base 25 for being naturally very quiet. DC 31 means Pel has a 5% chance of doing this . . . but he can do it. I’d personally allow a DC 15 check to hear an incoming arrow as well – and that has nothing to do with the Stealth of the shooter.

Hidden Lore: I’ll go ahead and make the statement that both the DC and the Modifiers tables count as hidden lore, and you should think of the kind of things you might want to do routinely and work out base DCs and modifiers with your GM in advance to the extent you can – that’ll take such decision-making out of immediate play, where it’ll be less disruptive to the game flow and less likely to start an argument, which again wastes time.

The skill of singing, dancing, and telling stories so you can starve more slowly than otherwise. I mean, seriously: Profession skills, if you can roll them at all, return half your profession check result in gold pieces per week. So if you have one rank in these, you’re bringing in 2-21gp per week, call it about 2 gp per day on the average, more or less.

Perform skills? Yeah . . . good luck. You need to make a DC 20 perform check to return that kind of money (3d10 silver per day, or about 1.6 gp).

The nice thing about performing, though, especially for those such as singers is that you don’t need a lot of equipment to do it. Short on cash? A day’s work can bring some in.

Hidden Lore: As one might imagine, if you don’t have this skill it’s tough to be a Bard. Meaning you need it to empower your special abilities, so don’t skimp. That’s not really hidden – Bards are all about performing. But don’t be a dolt and forget.

This is the skill of doing tasks related to making a living (architect, brewer, gambler, gardener, merchant, sailor, soldier as examples). It seems to be primarily related to making money, at the rate of half your skill check in gold pieces per week. For someone with decent skill (Pel at 4th level has +9 in both Sailor and Merchant) you can bring in some real money with downtime: Pel’s skill check will net him 10-21 gp per week. Those aren’t “replacement for adventuring” type wages, which is good.

We’ve played this as “knowledge and action skills related to your job.” Merchant has been particularly useful (especially paired with Appraise) to sell stuff, and the ability to have only a DC 10 check to hit “market value” is nice.

Hidden Lore: Nothing explicit, but it’s worth bearing in mind that while you can have (and make money with) Profession (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy), the GM will frequently have to adjudicate whether a given task can be accomplished with this skill. You don’t roll against Prof(Soldier) to brain your foe with a sword. Profession (Sailor) doesn’t let you build a ship – there’s a Craft skill for that. Worth taking the time to figure out what the GM will sweep into the skill.

Doing fancy stuff on the back of a horse or similar mount. The tasks that are suggested are interesting and instructive: Guide with knees (hands free for fighting), stay in the saddle (when mount is spooked, or you’re damaged), let your mount attack independently of your own actions, hide behind your mount as cover (like the cowardly dog you are), fall off the mount gracefully, jump over obstacles, go fast, control an untrained mount in battle, or mount and dismount as a free action.

Hidden Lore: You don’t need to make any rolls to do most things with a combat-trained mount. Controlling such a mount in battle doesn’t require a roll, only attacking with it and preserving your own attack does.

Sense Motive
The high-level summary of this seems to be (more or less) “opposes the Bluff skill.” Three nifty uses for this one: getting a gut feel on the behavior or trustworthiness of a person. Detecting if someone’s been magicked with controlling spells (mind control, domination, etc. Not +1 to AC or stuff like that). Also intercepting secret messages sent to others by observation.

Hidden Lore: A Ranger acting against his favored enemy gets a bonus, and the Alertness feat boosts this as well.

Sleight of
Pick pockets, palm objects, secretly ready concealed weapons. Sometimes this is opposed by Perception (another good reason to take it). Tiny objects get bonuses.

Hidden Lore: Untrained Sleight of Hand is a DEX check.


For magic users, this is a big deal. Casting spells, identifying cast spells and magic items, and making magic items. Mmm. Making magic items.

This is what you roll against after you cast a spell like Detect Magic and Identify. It’s what you roll against to learn a spell or decipher a scroll. 

Hidden Lore: None, really – but you’d best master the rules for what you want to be good at, and know the modifiers. This is a primay skill for the magic set.


The art of hiding and moving silently. This is the Rogue’s big deal, and probably pretty important for Rangers too. Stealth is opposed by Perception, and since if you biff the detect roll, you may be open to the Rogue’s Sneak Attack ability, this is a bad roll to miss.

You can move pretty well with Stealth: half move at no penalty, and up to full move at -5 to skill. You get a bonus if you’re sneaky and small, and penalties if you’re a larger creature.

Hidden Lore: I’m going to call a lot of the subtleties of Stealth hidden lore. Some of this stuff is pretty key, and one even speaks to something I’ve bitched about in the past: shooting a bow from concealment.

If you’re being observed, you can’t use Stealth. But if you shout “Look! Over there! A dinosaur!” real loud, you can disappear in the resulting confusion (make a successful Bluff). Again: big deal, as it enables you to get into a position from which special abilities or undefendable attacks may be made. Granted, it’s -10 to skill, but it’s doable.

You can make a ranged attack from concealment if you’re more than 10 feet away, and then take a move action to use Stealth to regain concealment at -20 to skill. So you have to be good to pull it off.

On the flip side, I’d definitely apply a penalty to foes’ Perception if they’re actively fighting someone else (similar to background noise); I’d also make the Perception DC the LESSER of the Stealth check, the sound of a bow being drawn, or the sound of the arrow. That’s me, though.

Being invisible and immobile is +40 to skill; moving while invisible is +20. Invisibility is a good thing.

I understand why they named it Survival, but given the amount of text in the entry, it maybe should be called “Tracking.” Lots of information is given on following critters and sentients based on number, size, and type of ground.

Oh, sure – a basic DC 10 check helps you survive and feed yourself and your party, as well as aiding Fortitude saves versus weather. Oh, and predicting the weather is a Survival skill too. 

Moving and staying abovewater in various conditions. If you make a swim check, you can move forward. If you biff it, you make no progress, and if you really screw up, you can go underwater and may start to drown. 

Hidden Lore: You must always roll in a storm; you can’t Take 20. But, you don’t have to make routine swim checks if you actually have a Swim speed listed on your character sheet – this is for aquatic creatures: Fish don’t drown much. 

Use Magic

This one’s interesting. It allows you to use a magical device that usually requires a special ability. Like  using a wand usually requires that you have the spell on your class spell list (you needn’t know it). If it’s not, you have to use this skill.

The DCs of this skill are really high – none less than 15 (what you subtract from your roll to emulate having a high ability score), and may range up to 30 as a base, and using a scroll by a level 20 caster can be DC 40!

The list of magical deception you can pull off is pretty neat, though. Deciphering a spell, using a scroll or wand, or emulating a class feature, ability score, alignment, or race!

Parting Shots
For the game being played, I find the Pathfinder skills list broad enough to provide some limited differentiation, but narrow enough so you can get a move on and not worry about being brought to a halt by someone not having the right skill.

This is important, since it really allows those writing adventures to have a basic assumption as to what a party can do. This is a phenomenal advantage over a system like GURPS, with its monster skill list and no guarantees that “the party thief” has the right skill set. Or even that there will be a party thief.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this, and I’m sorry it took so long to put down.

Next up: Feats. Grar, there are a lot of them, so I’m sure I won’t be doing a blow-by-blow like I did with skills. 

In the discussion of common pitfalls in GURPS (which was really common pitfalls in RPGs in general, for the most part, some of which applied more directly to GURPS), the topic of metagaming currencies came up.

What is a metagaming currency? Well, I’ll pick on GURPS, since I can think of a few:

  • Luck can be use X times per hour/day/game session. It allows you to reroll certain bad die rolls, or try and improve on good ones. 
  • Tactics success can allow the equivalent of Luck rerolls, a certain number of times per battle
  • Destiny or Bonus points, discussed in GURPS Monster Hunters at least, and I give them a nod in The Last Gasp, again give you “good stuff,” much of it being Luck-type re-rolls, and you get a certain number per game based on the number of points you’ve invested in (for example) a Wildcard skill
I’m sure there are others.
Whenever I think about metagaming in this context, my thoughts always turn to D-Day, and Band of Brothers. If the PCs are going to cross the bullet-swept beaches of D-Day in the opening scene of your adventure, you’re either going to want to start off with . . .

“OK, you guys just landed on the beach, saw most of your comrades in arms brutally murderized, but have managed to come through relatively unscathed. Now, we begin with . . . “

 . . . or you’re going to want to have some sort of ability for the PCs to avoid random death. I am utterly convinced that by dint of skill, behavior, a knack for making the right call under pressure, certain soldiers (it’s most obvious in war, I think) are “lucky,” but it’s such a repeated kind of luck that it’s probably not actual luck. Well, most of the time.

How to represent that? GURPS does it through a very specific set of metagame currencies, purchased as advantages or bequeathed by certain kinds of skills. I find this kind of metagaming helps with immersion, rather than harms it. When you do things like use such things to make a fatal bullet wound a scary close call (a “graze”) – but you have a limited supply, so your luck can indeed run out. I think it makes for the right kind of resource-management type of decision that is perfectly in keeping – in the outcome, if not strictly by method – with good roleplaying.

We use Destiny points in +Nathan Joy‘s GURPS DF: Jade Regent game, and they significantly aid fun. Honestly, Pathfinder itself, with the flat probability distribution of the 1d20 die roll, could probably benefit from such a thing. Maybe 1 “re-roll” per session every 4-5 levels or something (I may very well find exactly this exists, but I haven’t come across it yet).

In short: bring on the metagaming management of resources to help the players influence their own story. I love it, I love it, I want more of it.