Some of the recent threads and comments about armor as dice have led me to think about alternate ways to get what I want out of Armor as Dice – less variable penetration so that if you armor rated for X (and GURPS defines X as 3.5 points per die for both penetration and resistance), and a bullet hits you with basically less energy than X, it won’t go through.

Some of these distinctions don’t seem like much, or important. And to a certain extent, they’re very much not. If you have (say) a DR 8 bullet resistant vest, in theory it should be proof against a .45 ACP (2d pi+) but not a 9mm (2d+2 pi).

Turning to AnyDice (and we’ll be doing that a lot this post) we see that the .45ACP will punch through DR 8 with 1 point or more of damage potential remaining just over 27% of the time in round numbers. The 9mm, which should always go through, will go through 58% of the time.

This is very easy to rationalize. Poor angles, uncertain coverage, and other variables make armor less certain. The tendency to treat an armored vest as if it fully covers the entire torso (a legit simplification) makes the push to make every thing just work out neatly less mandatory.

Still, players buy armor to buy protection, and some armors really are that good. The “solution” tends to be “if you want full protection in a gamist manner, buy DR6 per die of protection you want.” Thus, if you want to be fully protected vs. that 2d or 2d+2 bullet, buy DR 12 and DR 14 respectively, which will increase the weight of that armor piece by about 70%.

OK, fine, but I am going to press forward and solve the non-problem anyway, because though there are many instances where you can rationalize the roll, there are others where you can’t.

Armor as Points, Penetration as Points

Armor as Dice has gotten plenty of love elsewhere. But there’s another method discussed in Armor Revisited (Pyr #3/34), which inverts the method: instead of listing Armor as dice and keeping the damage as dice, express the penetration as a fixed number, and go with variable injury.

So instead of 2d, a .45ACP handgun would have a pentration rating of 7, a 9mm would be 9, a 5.56x45mm might have a 17, and a .50 BMG would be something like 40-46 depending on the barrel.

So the effect is the same. Compare Penetration to DR, and if Pen is higher, it goes through. This also allows either using HP or “Mass-based” HP as a blow-through threshold as a number read right off a character sheet, precalculated before play starts for the mass-based number.

So, for a straight-up, GURPS standard application, subtract DR from PEN, and then roll injury dice. Roll 1d for every 3.5 points of penetration that get through would be the most straight-forward conversion, though “divide by 3 or 4” would be easier in play. Remainders might just be adds. Actually, rolling 2d per 7 PEN, and converting so you always roll two dice might not be that bad.

So a notional M4 carbine might do 16 penetration, and impacting DR 10 would have 6 remaining penetration points. Injury results, and you roll 1d+2 (average 5.5) or 2d-1 (average 6).

A tank cannon that usually does 6dx20(2) would convert to 420(2), and faced with DR500 would be 420 PEN – 250 DR (thanks to the armor divisor), leaving 170 PEN left. Against machines, maybe you don’t roll, maybe you convert to 2dx24 or even 3dx17 if you want some randomness.

Explode it!

But what if you want even more random injury – because injury is far, far more variable than penetration?

I’ve recently been exploring the Savage Worlds system, which features exploding dice. Called an Ace in the game, if you roll the highest value on your die, you get to roll it again, and add it to the prior roll. Leading to the unusual circumstance that you can’t roll a 6 on an exploding d6. But nevermind that.

An exploding die is basically a geometric progression. It’s the average value of the die (3.5 for d6), multiplied by 1 + the probability that you get to roll again (1/6) + the probability you get to roll a third time, fourth time, etc.

In short:

and in this case, a = 3.5 and r is 1/6. If we were rolling a d8, a would be 4.5 and r is 1/8.
So our average values for exploding dice would be 
Of course, GURPS only uses d6, so a more useful table would be 
And one of the very interesting things here is that the first four values are of great interest to GURPS players, since they represent typical wound multipliers for crushing (Never), just under +1 per die (6), pi+ or cut (5-6), and imp or pi++ (4-6).
So you could replace damage multipliers with exploding dice, and each die explodes separately. So your .45 ACP that does 2d pi+ could legitimately roll a 2.
They All Explode!

If one really got enamored of exploding dice due to the variability, I’d simply apply a -1 per die to all damage, and let all d6 explode on a 6. That doesn’t quite balance out. It’s a 1.2 multiplier for the explosion, but -1 per die is x0.71, for a net of a 15% loss in damage.
In any case, you’ll wind up converting any penetration that gets through DR to dice. Exploding dice. So the injury can be pretty variable.I’d convert at 4 points per die.

Though injury might be variable, it would be easy to make blowthrough not be that way. So if you were shooting with a firearm with PEN 25 at a person with DR 8 and a blowthrough threshold of 11 (maybe he weighs about 180 lbs), you’d have 17 penetrating damage, or about 4d+1 injury.
But what happens downstream? The bullet loses a flat 11 going through the guy, and stops in the DR 8 armor in his back. 
Let’s say it was an AP bullet at 25 PEN. So DR drops to 4, and so does blowthrough, dropping to 6. So the bullet punches through the DR on both sides and the guy, with 11 remaining to threaten others.
You then make a choice – do you apply the full amount (PEN 25 less DR 4) which is PEN 21, or 5d+1 to your foe, or limit it to blowthrough, either 11 or 6. 
This might call for revisiting the pi ratings of some rifle rounds – the 7.62x51mm bullet that we’re more or less simulating here can have a pretty impressive temporary cavity, which can cause some odd effects. But if it doesn’t hit anything vital, the AP bullet might just zip on through, with something like a 2d+3 wound. 8.4 damage on the average, about a pistol-sized wound.
Bullets that (say) tumble and fragment might expend a lot of energy blowing through, etc. But that’s a detail best left to other rules.
Parting Shot

We’re borrowing a mechanic from another game here (Savage Worlds, but other games have had exploding dice before SW), so one has to be careful. 

Still, it’s a better fit – isolated to effect rolls, and applied to something that’s highly variable, an injury roll – than the D&D Advantaged mechanic is to the GURPS space. 

The impact on actual damage rolled isn’t that high – a 20% boost in damage if you let the dice explode infinitely, but honestly if you let the die explode 3 times (providing a potential 4x damage multiplier at the high end) you’re already averaging the 4.2 that is the asymptote. Since that’s the same as a brain hit (x4), you might as well cap it at 3 extra rolls per die. 

I think this might be fun at the table. The fixed (or partly variable; I’d suggested something like a varability of about 1/5 before) DR and PEN values would make some sense. If you made a PEN of 18 into (say) 14+1d, and/or DR the same kind of treatment (though it might depend on the armor), you could account for “no way in hell” penetration values as well as some degree of random for both injury and penetration. Exploding dice are icing, since it takes fixed penetration, and gives back randomness to it without changing the number or distribution of dice you roll. 
Seems like with a good code base, such as the free-form stuff you can write in MapTool, this would be invisible to the user, even including variable penetration, armor, and exploding dice. 
The big issue I have in play with Armor as Dice is I like to let the players roll their damage, and by letting them do that, I must give them intel on the armor rating in dice of the enemy. That’s less fun, because it kills tension.
Fixed PEN values would pose the same problem, though. It would add a little high-end variability on the injury side, which is good. 
Ultimately, what we’re doing though is converting a fixed PEN-DR to injury. If you’re really doing it with a computer, the GM might as well double the penetrating energy (so in our example above, 24 PEN – 8 DR is 16 Penetrating Damage) and just roll 1d(2xPEN) or 1d(1.5xPEN) if you’re in (say) Roll20. That allows for grazes and lucky vitals hits, and the right kind of arbitrary where you can get a .50 that just wings you, or makes your head assplode. With rolling many dice, you get a mean effect that may or may not be swingy enough.
But I will say this in passing; while armor as dice does have some nice effects, it also has some drawbacks, so YMMV. For every case where you say “My vest should stop a .45 ACP cold!” you can find a case where your angle to the shot wasn’t right and it misses the primary protection. That might be best modeled as a clean ‘no DR!’ case, though. In that sense, the Rules-as-Written are no loss. The player gets to roll his damage (and players like effect rolls), and the GM can keep DR and injury hidden, if she wants.

Apologies for references without links, but I’m behind a work firewall and for some reason they don’t want me surfing the SJG Forums from work. Unreasonable folks, corporate IT. It’s like they want me working or something.

In any case, there’s a weekly thread that got started up over on the GURPS forums called “Tweak of the Week.” It’s a neat brainstorming idea, and the first one on strength can be mined for good stuff.

I was pleased to find that the second one is about Armor as Dice, a concept I embrace (and while I may have published the first Pyramid Article on the topic, it seems to be a case of parallel evolution, since I remember way back when more than one person positing this as a solution to some perceived issues.

On that same thread, +Mark Langsdorf brings up a few cognitive challenges for Armor as Dice, which I can’t help with, and one issue of figuring blow-through, which I can.

So, since you roll damage and stuff after primary armor penetration, would you then have to convert left-over damage back to dice, etc., to figure out how to kill five giants, all in a row?

Dice, Dice Baby

I think the notional solution to this problem is to invoke the dice concept one more time.

Blow-through thresholds should be expressed in dice, based on the HP of the target. Ideally, a 10HP average guy would have about a 2d+1 blowthrough threshold, allowing a .45ACP to not typically overpenetrate, but a 9mm at 2d+2 will. But frankly, that’s more trouble than it’s worth. I’ll get to it later, though, for those that care.

Ultimately, just convert mass-based HP (or just use racial average HP) to dice, and for people, that would look like the chart to the right. For a 5-ton mecha, it’d be about 6dx2. 

So just look at the armor. If you’ve got (say) 6dx3 DR (DR 60-65 or so) on top of a 6dx2 mech by mass, and you hit it with a 6dx6(2) projectile (say, an APFSDSDU shell), you can look at a total interference of 6dx5 (DR plus HP), halved for the (2) AD to 6dx2.5. The downrange threat is thus 6dx6 – 6dx2.5, or 6dx3.5(2). That will penetrate the armor and the HP of the guy behind it, leaving a 6dx0.5(2), or 3d(2) threat, which won’t penetrate the third guy’s armor, but might be a threat to human personnel.

Parting Shot

It’s all about the dice, ’bout the dice.

Kidding aside, Armor as Dice is supposed to make things simpler, not more complex. You deal with dice as long as possible, and only convert to injury at the end.

The assumption inherent is that the injury is variable (and thus rolled), but the penetration is consistent enough – even through flesh and whatnot – to just treat as dice.

It should be simple, playable, and fast – though the issues such as keeping the mystery of what the foe’s stats are still remain, it’s designed to keep the math a bit more simple where it can be kept simple.

When I talked about scaling DR by Tech Level, or perhaps simply showing diminishing returns, I drew a comment by +Michael Wolf that brought up some new thoughts. 

There’s Nothing About Point-Buy That Isn’t Meta

On the one hand, he called it too meta. I disagree with this characterization, because assigning point values to things is about as meta as it gets, and figuring out the right value to charge for that is no more meta than anything else. 

Where I agree, however, is that the vast majority of people in nearly any world (though perhaps not any game world) will not likely be walking around covered in battle armor. Unless your race has natural DR 25 or something.

Low Levels of DR are Valuable

Even so, I think his basic point, with which I agree, is that there’s a range of DR that’s valuable irrespective of tech level. After that, the marginal value of additional DR does in fact go down. The marginal value of DR 10,000 vs DR 1,000 (bouncing on average roughly 3dx100 and 3dx1000 damage) just isn’t that high if the maximum damage that can be dealt out by any force you’re likely to encounter is 3dx10. It’s just icing, gravy, or gravy-flavored icing.

Still, I had two suggestions, and one (scale DR by TL) would charge vastly less for DR at TL8, with only 35 points – The cost of, say, ST 13 and Striking ST+1 – giving you enough to bounce a .50BMG. The fact that you can strap on forty pounds of armor to do that isn’t really the point – you don’t have to strap on the armor. No human can punch you and do any damage. You can probably get nailed by a car (55 HP is about 2,500 lbs) at up to 50mph (Move 25) and just shrug it off. 

That’s a power worth more than 35 points.

So Michael’s right, that the scaling of DR with TL is not well executed the way I’ve done it. There’s a range of damage where it’s just darn valuable to have DR, and honestly, for normal people, that range is very low, the first few points being the most valuable of all.

Consider that the average damage from a swung large knife in the hands of a baseline average human maxes out at 1d-2 (1d flat with an AoA). So with but DR 2, you’re 50% resistant to knife swings, with DR 6, you’re immune. You can’t be injured by a knife even with an All-Out Attack. 

In short, the first perhaps 10 points of DR are huge, but the last 9,000 maybe not so much.

Diminishing Returns, Revisited

My last attempt tried to invoke the Size and Speed/Range Table to make things happen, because that’s a great way of doing things that’s built right into GURPS. I was also enamored of making each point of DR cost half that of ST, due to the per-point cost of DR being half that of ST. 

That doen’t work, though, because each point of ST only buys you one point of extra swing damage, and a point of DR resists that. In short, if you’re using the SSR table, go right ahead and look to T-Bone’s original scaling. The question of where the crossover point is still exists – there can be good reasons to peg it at DR 10 or 20, I think. But using that scaling you get a cost where 100 points either buys you DR 10 or 20 (depending on whether you like 5 or 10 as the cost per point of DR in the linear range). Being protected against that car strike is a few hundred points in either case.

Other Progressions

We can also attempt to invoke true diminishing returns, and make a relationship where each point of DR costs a bit less than the one before it – basically a power law, where the point cost is equal to some constant times the DR you want to a negative power.

I played around with some progressions, what “felt right,” and ease of implementation, and oddly enough (though perhaps not) one that seemed to work well was simply

Cost = 15 * sqrt (DR)

That square-root cost has some parallels in ST vs Basic Lift, but that’s not why it’s there. It’s there because square roots are easy and it produces sensible results. Engaging in a bit of pentophilia, you can rescope the cost in 5 point increments. The results don’t look half-bad.

Parting Shot

How high must DR go? Well, looking through High-Tech and Ultra-Tech, there are basically two categories of weapons listed. That which you can defend against with DR, and those you can’t. In the “can defend” category, other than nukes, anything more than the equivalent to protect against about 6dx150 – which is really 6dx15 (10) is off the charts. Maybe you can put an APHD core on a TML, which gives you 6dx50 (5) I think. So DR vs 6dx250, or about DR 5,000. All of the rest are lower, or nuclear or antimatter weapons . . . or those with an armor divisor of “infinite,” which you simply can’t protect against.

So that much protection is on the order of 1,000 points no matter which progression you use. That seems fine.

Want to bounce a kiloton-scale nuke? For that you need DR 50,000 or so, and that’s a GM call as to whether it feels right that it’s only a few hundred points more (1100 at 5 points per level base scaling to DR 20 vs 750 or 800 to bounce most direct-fire weapons and kinetic missiles), or thousands of points more, which is what sqrt(DR) will get you.

The way I look at it, and returning to Michael’s point about unarmored humans, is that protection against “casual” injury – or even not-so-casual injury, since DR 10 is enough to ward against an angry ST 14 guy wth an axe, or most common self-defense pistols – is a big deal. Being able to ignore such an attack feels like a significant chunk of points, and I pegged it at 50. For about 100 points using the sqrt progression, you’re good against up to about 15d (DR 50) and you’ve got protection equal to the best body armor of the day (advanced body armor and trauma plates) all over, with no encumbrance. That feels about the same as the 100 points of unfairness for ATR to me.

Image by +Winchell Chung 
Click the image to see more of his Ogre work!

Ultimately, the variables in a generic game are nearly too wide to consider. TL doesn’t strictly work, since with the right magic, you might be able to chuck monster damage. Diminishing returns has to set in, I think, and picking a progression based on the SSR table or sqrt(DR) will help – it really just depends on if you, as GM, consider a 10x increase in DR to be worth about 300 points, or some higher number (2,000 or so from DR 5,000 to DR  50,000). From a direct fire perspective, the 300 point version is probably right. But if your bad guys are slinging nukes, and you have, say, a cybertank that is capable of taking a near-direct hit from such a weapon. 

Being able to bounce an assault rifle seems like on the order of 100 points to me, so I like either the 5/point per level version scaling with the SSR table, or the sqrt (DR) progression. At the very high end, I suspect that the opportunity cost of what you can do with the extra points is what matters. I think I’d rather charge less (5 points/level and the SSR) for uber-high levels of DR because the 2,000 points you’re not spending on extra DR can be spent on a hell of a lot of alternate capability. Where 300 points is a much smaller chunk of “what else can I do?” to give up.

Armor as dice is a good way of simplifying and speeding some aspects of GURPS combat. It makes it pretty easy to determine if an attack penetrates armor – do the damage dice exceed the armor dice? If yes, injury occurs. If not, it doesn’t.

Simple and binary. Maybe too much so. In my Alien Menace game, when +Peter V. Dell’Orto or +Jake Bernstein got tagged by a blaster for 3d(5) against 10d armor there was no doubt as to the outcome – you were going to take 1d injury per shot. Period.

In that case, the chance of injury was 100%, and the average injury was caused by 3.5 points of penetration, maximum 6 points.

In rules-as-written GURPS you’d roll the 3d damage against 1/5 of DR 35 or DR 7. That’s about a 12% chance of no injury at all, average damage was 3.68, with a maximum of 11 points. You get an injury more than the maximum 6 points using armor as dice about 20% of the time.

If I increase the overmatch by as little as 1d (3d penetration vs 1d effective armor, or getting hit with 3d(10) instead of 3d(5), normality reverts itself, with 1% chance of getting by unscathed, and a tiny fraction of the time getting higher than the max Armor as Dice value of 12. 

So this is really an extension of the edge case of when penetration is more than armor, but by less than about 1d.

I think the solution to the problem, such as it is, is that if penetration less armor is lower than or equal to 1d+1, add 1d-4 to the penetration and roll it. Sometimes it’ll come out as a non-penetration, sometimes you’ll get in a few extra HP . . . but mostly it’ll keep the right flavor. You either totally overmatch the armor and always cause injury, or the blow pings off and is no real threat.

But as it happens, the deliberate challenge I posed to my players – weapons that just barely overmatched their torso armor – fell right smack into an edge case.

Who’d a thunk it?

Parting Shot

This post started as me wondering how to keep the mystery for the players. They know their damage rolls (usually but not always 6d for the rifles), but by only rolling injury, they know exactly how strong their foes’ armor is. That means I have to roll all damages (which is less fun for them) if I don’t want to give key bits of tactical data away, such as how strong the armor is. 

That’s a real downside to Armor as Dice, since if you roll at all, you are either in the middle of the edge case or blasting through.  Maybe that’s OK, but I like the feeling as a player of rolling my hit and damage rolls, then seeing the effect. In a +RPTools world, or +Roll20, this is often done as a macro: Bob rolls 10 against a skill of 14, succeeding by 4. He hits twice, and rolls 6d6 and 6d6 for 16 and 29 points of damage if his foe fails to defend. Very common MapTool and Roll20 macros there. When playing on a VTT, that sort of automation does speed the game.

For Alien Menace, I’m not too worried about metagame knowledge from my players – they’re long-time gamers, authors, and all-around good guys. But as a general case, while I like armor as dice for many reasons, this isn’t one of them.

A solution by +Luke Campbell offered by Varyon

Over on the GURPS Forums, Varyon comments that one thing that would fix this quite a bit is to change “roll injury as Nd” where N is the penetration dice less the armor dice to “roll injury as 1d x N, where N is still the same.

So the players, on any injury, are rolling 1d. No information need be given out other than the fact that armor was penetrated. Bonus, from my perspective, is it increases the variability of injuries. If you like grazes and hitting the vitals with a 1d roll . . . I wonder if it can be the same roll. If you slam down a 1, you check to see if it was a graze or not (with N being max damage), and if you roll a 6, you have hit something important, and can increase the damage as a result.

Bah. That’s another post. For this one, I think treating Nd+M as 1dxN+M is the answer I was looking for.

Sort of in response to another thread on the forums. But this time, I’m wondering if I can use my favorite thing in the whole GURPS world to answer a question about scaling DR with tech level.

Damage Resistance

At 5 points per level, DR is fairly expensive. It’s 1.6x more than Fatigue Points and 2.5x more expensive than HP, and half the cost of ST. If we take the baseline for the cost of this trait as generically fair, then it takes 17.5 points to be protected vs each die of damage. So for 18 points you are immune to the average barehand thrust damage for a ST 14 warrior, and for 35 points you’re immune to swing damage of 2d. Thus to be protected from typical pistols is going to be in the 35-50 point range, and over 100 points to shrug off a rifle.

Buying enough DR to deal with a 6dx30(3) tank projectile is thus 90x more expensive, or about 9,000 points.

That’s a lot of points. Probably too many, since diminishing returns should set in somewhere.

Diminishing Returns or by Tech Level?

Diminishing returns brings up a good point. While I started with “scale it by Tech Level,” it might be better just to bend the cost curve. Let’s see . . .

By Tech Level

Scaling by Tech Level assumes that you’ll be bending the curve by the average or typical threat a PC is likely to face. Maybe 1d-3d at TL3, 3d-8d at TL8, and reaching for blasters and such, something like 12d-18d at TL10, including the effects of armor divisor. A quick scatterplot shows that, well, shucks, the scaling for a power law seems to go at the 1.45 power of Tech Level, which means scaling protection by the Size and Speed Range table (which goes as the sixth root of 10, or 1.468) will give pretty decent results. If we assume DR cost is scaled for the value of a TL3 world, then you can multiply the effect of DR by how many steps up the S/SR table you go, at roughly x2 per 2TLs.

In short, if it costs you 35 points to be protected vs a 2d attack (DR 7) at TL3, that same 35 points will buy you 3d at TL4, 10d at TL7, 14d (about enough to bounce a .50 BMG) at TL8, and 6dx5 (DR 105) at TL10.

Note that the offset for paying 35 points for DR 50 at TL8 is an Improved Assault Vest and SAPI inserts, which provide DR 47 to the torso front and rear for $3,600 and 26 lbs. So it’s basically 35 points to have, all the time, what you can have if you can buy the stuff and carry the weight.

If you drop 100 points of “unfairness” into DR, the same cost as ST 20 or Altered Time Rate, you will wind up with DR 20 at TL3, DR 140 at TL8, and DR 300 at TL10. Compare with armor and battlesuits in the DR 60-150 range at TL10.

Diminishing Returns

The other way to go here would be to forget TL and just say that, much like ST in a way, once you have more than enough, the marginal value of more is zero.

T-Bone has the best suggestion for pricing ST I’ve seen. Applying that philosophy to DR would make some sense. The ST progression works out great, and provides a great diminishing returns once you get out of human norm.

Well, there is no human norm for DR, and direct conversions with Thomas’ table won’t really work . . . but if we say that each 25 points is 2 steps up the Size and Speed/Range Table, we get something like a decent progression, where the cost of DR is 5 points per level up to DR 10, and then each 25 points takes you two steps up the S/SR progression, or 150 points per x10, which not coincidentally is half the increment for the ST table in T-Bones’ rules.

Parting Shot

The two options to not produce equivalent results. DR 1000 at TL8 (285d+2) using TL scaling is about 700 points, while DR 1000 using diminishing returns is only 200 points. That being said, against an AP attack such as DU, that’s 6dx15 (3) or perhaps even more importantly, about 6dx5 (10), which is not out of line for a shoulder-fired ATGM at TL8 (see GURPS High-Tech, p. 148 for some examples). If people are known to be that tough, tough weapons will be deployed against them.

The same 200 points of ST will buy ST 50 using those rules, while 700 points will purchase about ST 2,000. Relative to DR 1,000 the 700-point cost for ST and DR might balance “better,” but really, at that point level you’re pricing against the cost of equipment.

I think ultimately, the linear cost for DR needs to somehow become diminishing as either protection scales up, TL scales up, or maybe even both. DR 1,000 at TL3 is basically untouchable without cosmic attacks or things that blow right through DR like Deathtouch (I think). DR 1,000 at TL8 means that you’re in the same class as a decent armored vehicle remembering that an M1A2 or Leopard 2A6 might well be in the neighborhood of DR 5,000 against HEAT attacks, and 2,500 against “mundane” KE attacks.

Some sort of blend, where DR gets a multiplier per point based on the TL/typical threat, but also has a diminishing returns progression, might wind up being the best. No firm judgement yet on my part – but some noodling provided at least some guidance. I”d expect 500-1000 points to be at least as good as a modern MBT, which means with “only” a 7x multiplier for TL, you still need some sort of diminishing returns to get you there.

More later, I’m sure!


In the GURPS Alien Menace game, we use armor as dice. So their DR 35 combat armor is now 10d on the torso. The 3d (5) blasters knock that down to 2d armor, doing 1d burn injury per hit through the torso.

It’s fast and easy.

But we wanted to come up with a rule for grazes, and have settled on:


If a defense is missed by 1, a hit turns into a graze. Armor DR is doubled, and if any penetration occurs, injury is only one point of damage per 6d of injury, minimum one point of injury.

Parting Shot

This makes it possible to get hit by a .50 BMG for less than 12 points of damage, which is something I tried to deal with (badly) in Armor Revisited (Pyramid #3/34: Alternate GURPS), and TBone did much better in his article in the same issue: Ten Tweaks.

I wanted to keep the quick and easy feel of Armor as Dice, not change any rules. So if you biff your defense by 1, you get grazed. Seems like it would be fair to allow one to spend a destiny point for this as well, or maybe even a two-fer. One point can turn that attack from success into failure anyway, so you can spend a point and turn two or three hits into grazes . . . maybe even on different shots. It’s terribly meta, but “get missed once, or grazed two or three times” seems not awful.

Saturday night put me in the GM’s chair for the first time in probably seven or eight years. I’ve been blogging for while on the prep. We had a full house. So how did it go?

The Interface – Fantasy Grounds

To start with, we can’t get past the issues with the interface and setup. While I’d run a test session over the last few days to have every one of my players connect, and +Eric hil still did yeoman’s work in getting me as far along as I was able to get . . . when it came time to play, my IP address was dynamically reset and so none of that meant a damn thing. Meanwhile, during the whole “make it work, damnit!” process, the IP address reset again, leaving me wondering whether it would do that sequentially and be massively disruptive.

Fortunately, you can in fact do port-forwarding on the fly, and once I got port 1802 hitting the right IP, my guys were able to link in, and it stayed stable for four hours.

Lessons Learned

  • Check the IP 30 min before the session with ipconfig
  • Reset ports if necessary
  • Do this every time

We still had some issues with the interface throughout the night, and if you make a few keystrokes wrong, you can lose a lot. I thought I was removing a drawn line I’d put on the map at one point, and it turns out I was deleting the entire map. Was a quick recovery, but it was a painful experience.

What else with the interface? It’s pretty non-intuitive for everyone. Some very odd choices of keystrokes, and the mouse-wheel is far too important. Scrolling the wheel can rotate your guy, rescale your guy (I eventually fixed that, but it was painful before I did), and increment nearly any active box by plus or minus, which means you can accidentally dynamically reorder the turn in the combat tracker by scrolling at the wrong moment.

When you add monsters to the tracker, they seem to go in with the same name in that tracker, and it’s very hard to figure out who’s getting wounded. I”d like it if when you selected a guy on the map, his entry in the combat tracker was also highlighted. After all, when +Tim Shorts nailed two Sectoid Workers at once with two well-aimed grenades, I needed to make them both dead. I wanted to highlight the guy on the map, then alter his stats. The interface is definitely character-based, rather than map-based.

Finally, for most of the game, the NPCs were a real issue. I was the only one who could control them, and frankly, the NPCs on the players’ side should be player controlled.

I really missed the +Roll20 ability to ping an area on the map by holding down the button, setting off a sonar ping that brought your attention to a particular area. A laser pointer function like exists in Power Point woudl work as well!

Finally, I got bit a tiny bit by fog of war and masking. As players advance and retreat, the sight-lines change, meaning I have to mask and unmask depending on who’s where. What I need is for a MapTools like dynamic vision model attached to the character, plus a way to place vision-blocking spaces into my map layer (but layers don’t really exist in the version I’m playing).

So it sucked?

No. Far from it. All you need to play is there, and it’s very, very powerful. But the interface foibles detraced from the game a bit.The more I play, the more facile I’ll be with making what I want happen. And I know that diverse people are hard at work making the next ruleset for GURPS a reality. I’m sure my players – every one a long-time GM, author of RPG material, or both – will have a lot of helpful advice.

The Game

The game had a bit of a setup phase first:

The Setup

I set up the game intro by having the players think about answers to the following questions. They didn’t have to tell me what they were, but they’d set up the beginning as characters met each other.

  • When I was contacted by an agent from Mr Oliver’s corporation, I was living in what city?
  • What was I doing at the time?
  • What event or activity brought you to Mr Oliver’s attention?
  • How hard were you to track down?
  • How did you respond to the initial proposal to join a fairly secretive Private Military Company?
  • Why did you accept the offer?

After that, and off-camera, they were flown to a fairly remote location and put through a series of physical and mental tests with a group of people that they have not seen since. Swimming, hiking, running, answering questions about politics, shooting and room clearing, heck, even a 48-hour session of . .  roleplaying games, where you required to remain in character the entire time. Hand-to-hand combat. Orienteering. Disassembling and reassembling machinery. Freaking painting and poetry. Training like an Operator. Yoga.

Then, again, the players were encouraged to think about

  • What was your most memorable (in a good and bad) way about the event?
  • What were you good at?
  • What left you thinking “what the fuck?”
  • What did you decide all this was about?

Again off-camera, they were extended an invitation to join the team. They were given a ticket on a private jet (chartered) to Singapore. There each was met by an utterly nondescript man in a grey business suit, and escorted to a private and posh waiting area, where you joined five other people in a waiting room. While the windows to the airport are frosted, the window outside reveals a Bombardier 9000 business jet, a very posh, very fast aircraft with a 14,000km range.

The game started there . . .

Getting to Know You

The team met for the first time in that waiting room. They were handed new employment packets, with double the salary that had originally enticed them to join. The team ate, drank, and talked for a bit. Then they were joined by two more (NPC) team members, and they got on the plane and flew to a private airstrip on Mornington Island in Australia, a roughly six hour flight. This island isn’t much, and still isn’t – but underneath it is now a major facility, owned by Oliver Industries and built quickly and in secret.

After being shown around the place for a bit – their new quarters (more like apartments than barracks – the facilities for eating, drinking, training and exercise, the next morning they had a briefing with Mr. Oliver himself.

Why would a billionaire start a Private Military Company? Even a former special forces guy like Oliver? Not why you’d think. He revealed that his top scientist, Dr. Arthur Beake, had discovered the secret and the physics behind a practical stardrive. Anywhere in the universe was within reach, within certain parameters.

Beake assembled a team, and they traveled to their first world. While Oliver insisted on the inclusion of at least one security officer, Beake and ‘the captain’ were at loggerheads from the beginning. It was Beake’s project to run, and thus the four-man team traveled to a new world, which was shown to be both earthlike in atmosphere and there was something that tracked as very high energy density at a particular location. Beake concluded that the place had been abandoned.

The overflight and landing was . . . put together quickly. The team landed, and this recording is the only surviving record from the trip.

The team had been wiped out in seconds. The drop ship (unarmed, barely armored) destroyed shortly after. The transport vessel returned home with a horrific tale of hostile aliens. Later studies showed that this hostility was not unique – it was a dangerous universe, and in the words of Nick Fury, humanity was hoplessly, hilariously outgunned, and out matched.

Oliver meant to go back to that world, and others. With soldiers of outstanding skill and flexible minds, looking to bring back sufficient technology to bootstrap humanity into contention.

No F**king Way and Liftoff

Troops would be forgiven for being skeptical, but Oliver escorted them down the hall, into a waiting drop ship, and seven minutes at just shy of 2g acceleration later, they were in orbit, rendezvousing with a 200-foot-long converted submarine. A quick return later, the troops were briefed.

They were to armor up in the best Oliver could provide (and that was pretty damn good), go back to the alien site, and return with as much technology as they could, especially the high energy density items detected in that first mission, 18 months ago. Everything else built to this, including finding and hiring this squad.

Any questions? Good. Gear up, and good hunting.

The mission

They entered the ice cave, and found a nearly perfect cutout in the wall – and the bodies of the dead away team. A hole had been melted through the Captain’s MP5, which Ianali ( +Christopher R. Rice ), the squad medic, determined to have continued through him. Beake had been hit three times, the Captain twice, and Jones and Yi drilled from back to front once each, directly through their hearts. Damage was more consistent with a blowtorch than a bullet.

They cautiously entered the cave complex, and moved into a large room. After a cautious advance, they heard a low noise, and both took cover and went weapons hot. They established sightlines, and soon a three-foot wide, one foot tall floating disc came into view. As soon as it did, the team opened up, and the first shots that were fired were a full burst of 6d bullets from AB Karabus’ (+Peter V. Dell’Orto ) squad support weapon. Despite the armor, AB landed more than 50% shots on target (7 of 12). This jarred the floater, which needed to take a turn to do some sort of targeting sweep. The very next instant, most of the team opened up, , including a devastating blow from Enrique ( +Nathan Joy ) firing an XM500 in .50 BMG for 12d. Other hits and probably a second shot from the Barrett rendered the floater inoperative with nary a return shot.

We were testing two house rules here. One was armor as dice. that worked fine, but it really does mean the GM needs to roll damage, since giving away how much armor the targets have might be too much. The other rule was an alternate take on Aim, and while it worked OK, some tweaks were made to make it even better.

They made careful approach to the north, with one of the NPCs always covering their rear track. They heard sounds that resembled electric discharges, similar to those from the audio recording. Taking no chances, they moved carefully forward until they had scoped out the extent of this north cavern area, and determined that both forks contained bad guys.

As cautiously as one can with a grenade launcher, they took out the guys to the “west” of the map. That brought the easterners running, and when they hit a chokepoint in the cavern, Colton ( +Tim Shorts ) let ’em have it, firing two HE grenades between them. Both were messily killed.

We ended there.

Parting Shot

Pretty sure eveyone had fun, and my first GM experience in 7-10 years wasn’t a total bust. I gave away too much during the fight, and I have to remember that if turn after turn goes by with the players choosing to sit and wait . . . that’s their choice, and if they find it “tense” rather than “boring,” that’s a win.

We also came up with a good alternate rule to handle this sort of situation that will be great next time.

All in all, I can’t wait to go again in two weeks! The aliens can’t wait either.

Cast of Characters

A special call-out to +Steven Marsh , +Gerardo Tasistro , and +Antoni Ten Monrós who rose to the occasion and survived a mediocre script to put together that audio clip that was my record for what happened to the first away team.

I used some free sound effects from the web, plus the Audacity free sound editing program. In probably an hour or so, I was able to put all that together, including splicing in the different sound effects, on multiple tracks where necessary, to allow the sounds to overlay with each other. Tons of fun, and I think worthwhile.

What do you think?

This started life as a for-Pyramid article. Some of it (the parts not in this post) still are. This stuff below . . . I could never make work well enough that I thought it would work for general consumption. So here it is. It’s “unfinished,” so details have not been fully worked out.

Still Sharp
At some point, a weapon’s striking surface, if sufficiently long
and narrow, will inflict cutting damage instead of crushing (a long, sharp
striking surface) or piercing or impaling (a penetrating, pointed striking
surface). Cutting attacks gain a 50% bonus to injury, using the wounding
multipliers on p. B379.
Melee Weapon quality (p. B274) increases base damage, so if a blunt metal sword blank is wielded by a ST 13
user, it would do 2d cr. If it is then laboriously worked into a very fine sharp blade (of the same
weight and length), it would end up doing 2d+2 cut, and has effectively gained
roughly 90% in ability to wound unarmored folk. It has also picked up a 30%
increase in penetration of armor. If we look at the increase from 2d cr to 2d+2
cut in terms of increases measured per die rolled, we have picked up +2 per 2d in armor penetration ability, and
nearly +7 per 2d in ability to wound!
The level of armor penetration improvement seen for very fine
blades – +2 per 2d – is plausible in
real-world weapons. It’s not a bad estimate (28% improvement in penetration)
for steels relative to each other, but
is probably inaccurate for a high-quality sword swung against equally well-crafted armor: both would have
been hardened appropriate to their function.
As the weapon quality modifiers (and the existence of Dwarven
Whetstones, Dungeon Fantasy 1: Adventurers, p. 25) suggest, there are
degrees of “sharp” in GURPS. Often the “sharper” the edge,
the less robust it will be to staying sharp
­and un-chipped, especially in a situation where the blade meets hard
resistance or is swung with great force. Sharpness doesn’t always translate
well to punching through solid obstacles, either. A cheap soft blade can be
made quite sharp (for one blow at least), while even a hard one might be
brittle and shatter – the narrow edge is a great place for cracks to form and
propagate. To find a blade that is hard, sharp, and robust? That would truly be
a weapon from the sagas!
Let’s go build some.

No Cutting Maces!The sharpness rules are only meant to apply to weapons that GURPS
gives the cutting damage type. It is not meant to give an opening to take a
flanged crushing instrument like a mace and turn it into some sort of “cutting
mace.” That sort of weapon is an axe for all intents and purposes; multiple
blades are more likely to impart a (0.5) armor divisor than to improve cutting
damage! The GM should feel free to veto such suggestions with extreme prejudice
. . . unless he decides that style trumps reality, and such a thing – even with the (0.5) armor divisor – is too
cool not to use! In that case, multiple blades should give +1 damage and a
(0.5) armor divisor, with cost and weight being left intentionally vague. Pass
me my bad axe-chuks, please (the more mundane sword-chuks can of course be
found in GURPS Martial Arts, p. 223)!

Cuts Like a Knife
Instead of the cutting modifier giving a flat +50% to behind-armor
injury, it will be treated as a continuum, from +1 to +10 for every two dice of base damage (or per every 7
points, if adding up force-multipliers such as Weapon Master, All-Out or
Committed Attacks, and basic adds to damage from weaponry). Treat the
“standard” good edge you get on most GURPS weapons as +4 per 2d. It will prove more convenient to
convert adds to dice where practicable: Vryce the Mighty, with ST 19, Weapon
Master, and a two-handed axe, would do 3d+10 cut damage using the normal rules,
but using the +4 per 2d suggestion, this should be expressed as 5d+3 cut
The cutting bonuses described below only apply to injury, once the effects of armor
(including tough hide – anything with DR) are applied.
In play, the behind-armor cutting injury multiplier is applied after calculating the effects of DR. There are several ways to effect this:

Why Per 2d Damage?Giving the cutting damage increase a resolution per 2d of damage may seem odd. Damage
bonuses in GURPS, such as those for Weapon Master or Karate, are per die, not per 2d. Per die bonuses
are quick, easy, and avoid rounding issues. So why bother?

The 50% bonus usually given to cutting weapons is either
+1.75 per die, or +3.5 per 2d – and
allowing a slight difference from +3 per
and +4 per 2d has a certain
appeal in games were the more common cutting weapons are swung weapons, and normal people can often rack up 2d or more
damage, allowing them to take advantage of such.

The variable wounding modifier calls for new notation: cut (+5/2d) is used to describe a
cutting weapon that inflicts +5 damage for every 2d of impact. If the weapon
has odd damage dice, such as 3d+1, you do
get partial credit! The modifier of +5/2d would give +5 for every 2d of
damage, and +1 for that last odd die: 3d+1 cut (+5/2d) adds +7 for cutting,
turning into 3d+8, or 5d+1 if converting adds to dice

Armor as Dice: Presented
in Armor Revisited (Pyramid
#3/34: Alternate GURPS II),
expressing DR as dice allows subtracting dice of armor from dice of damage, and then
applying the per 2d cut bonus in a
straightforward fashion. So 3d cut (+4/2d) vs. 1d+1 armor (about DR 4-5) would
put 2d-1 through armor, and the cutting modifier would increase injury by +4 to
2d+3. To ease conversion, consult the Armor
as Dice Table
at the end of the article.
Percentage Increase: This
method allows following the normal “roll damage, subtract DR, apply modifiers” pathway.
The 3d attack might do 11 points of damage; applied to DR 4 mail would leave 8
points remaining. Consulting the Percentage
Increase Table
(p. 00), the cutting modifier of +4 per 2d converts to +60% and results in 4 extra injury, for a total
of 12. This is obviously easiest if you are using a calculator or computerized
game aid, such as a virtual tabletop or gaming app.
Percentage Increase Table
The table below may speed calculation, and the numbers have been
rounded for convenience.

Arrows and Impaling WeaponsThe impaling damage type has a very large behind-armor
multiplier in GURPS, equivalent to +7 per
using the scale used in this article. Arrows are usually impaling, but
many bladed weapons, including spears, knives, and some swords, have a
thrusting mode that inflicts impaling damage.
If one sharpens a blade to inflict a larger cut multiplier
with a swing, what happens to thrust as you sharpen the edges and points?
Options include:
 Nothing: The
impaling damage type is explained as reflecting the weapon’s ability to reach
deeply into the body to reliably strike the creamy fruit center. As such, it
matches best when targeting body parts with location-based injury multipliers
such as vitals (¥3) or skull (¥4) than as an enhanced wounding multiplier.
Leave impaling as-is, then doubling damage on an impaling hit to most locations,
and receiving the increased wound multipliers if you target and hit the skull
or vitals.

Bleed Like Crazy: An
impaling weapon with super-sharp edges won’t make a bigger hole (though it
might go a little bit deeper into flesh), but what clean cuts really do is bleed. Instead of a flat penalty of -1
to HT for every 5 HP (p. B420), consult the Nasty

Size Matters: The
variable wound multipliers could also be used not as a proxy for sharpness, but
as a representation of the cross-section of the wound. Normal war arrows might
be imp (+7/2d), but a broad-bladed spear might well be imp (+10/2d) or more. A
bodkin arrow, which in GURPS provides an armor divisor but
represents a hardened arrowhead on a 0.4-0.5” diameter shaft, might then do 1d
(2) imp (+3/2d) – less injurious than the standard arrow doing 1d imp (+7/2d),
but much better penetration, and consistent with the wound multipliers of
bullets with a similar diameter.

Nasty Bleeding Table
Using this table, a fairly blunt impaling weapon rated at
only +2 per 2d sharpness would
inflict a -1 penalty to HT when checking for bleeding per 7 HP of injury taken.
At +8 through +10 per 2d, the penalty
is -1 per every 2 HP of injury! 

Armor Penetration

Fine and very fine weapons get a boost to basic
damage, which also has the effect of increasing armor penetration. Some games feature
weapons with an armor divisor of (2), or perhaps even more in high-magic,
high-technology, or super-powered campaigns.
Using per-die style armor reduction instead of divisors allows
for finer gradations in armor reduction. Armor piercing capabilities will be
represented as a DR reduction per die (or per
); an AP rating of -3 per 2d
would be equivalent to a (1.75) armor divisor, while -1 per 2d would be roughly (1.2). Ratings of -1 to -4 DR per 2d are fairly realistic; -1 or -2 DR per
might represent hardened, high quality steel facing mild or poor metal
armor, while -3 and -4 DR per 2d can
be seen with high-tech alloys like tungsten carbide or depleted uranium. Or
The practical upper limit for treating armor piercing ratings using
per-die subtraction is probably -5 DR per
of armor, the equivalent of an armor divisor of (3.5). A value of -6 per 2d would be a (7), and -7 per 2d is basically “ignores armor,” so
applying the usual GURPS divisors of (5), (10), and (100) once you go past -5 per 2d point is probably best for ease
of play and extendibility.
Converting DR to dice
using the Armor as Dice Table allows
the per die subtractions to be applied directly to armor. Alternately, apply
the partial armor divisors as a percentage reduction in DR. See the Hardening Craft Table (p. 00) for guidelines
on converting per 2d penetration
ratings into armor divisors (and vice versa).
Example: Striking DR 8
plate (2d+1) with a magic crossbow bolt rated at 1d+5 imp with an AP rating of
-3 DR per 2d would apply the rating
to the 2d+1 of the armor, resulting
in a reduction of DR by 3, for a net DR of 2d-2. Doing the math, (1d+5)-(2d-2)
is 7-1d imp – expressed a bit oddly for GURPS damage, but resulting in 1-6
points of penetration. Using the equivalent armor divisor of (1.75), you’d face
1d+5 penetration with DR 8/1.75, rounded up to DR 5, for 1d penetration . . .
exactly the same result!
Consult the Hardening Craft
(p. 00) for guidelines on the cost of purchasing higher levels of
increased armor divisor for bladed weapons.
Hardening Defenses
The inverse principle can be applied to armor. “Hard” armor would
reduce the penetration of incoming cutting, piercing, or impaling projectiles,
increasing the protection against that blow. The hardness rating can be
positive (+2 DR per 2d damage)
representing well-made, hardened armor, or even negative (-1 DR per 2d damage), representing materials
or construction that are weak vs. certain damage types. When AP rated damage
meets hardness-rated armor, simply add the modifiers. Thus, a hard sword or
arrowhead rated at -2 DR per 2d that
encountered a similarly hardened scale harness rated at +2 DR per 2d vs. cut/imp would cancel each
other out, and face each other on equal footing. This would also allow more
detail if using the optional rule for Blunt
Trauma and Edged Weapons
(GURPS Low Tech, p. 102).

+Peter V. Dell’Orto discussed how much damage is required to kill in GURPS hand to hand combat the other day. In it, he notes:

Yeah, it’s true. Gunfire can push you to -5xHP so easily I decided it wasn’t even worth discussing. But a post about different pistols and rifles and kills might be worth doing for Doug. Even a “mere” 2d+2 pistol is only a couple of vitals shots from automatic death.

Challenge accepted, though it’s somewhat meager. Just as a setup, you of course take your first risk of death at -HP, and autodeath at -5xHP, meaning that for a healthy guy, you must suffer 2xHP and 6xHP injury in one shot. I’m going to play a bit here, and take that as 24 HP and 72 HP of injury. And I’m doing that very, very much because that’s the average roll on 7d and 21d; for a max roll, you can’t get there unless you’ve got 4d and 12d. That makes the numbers work out to just a bit of overkill (or just the right amount of kill for a slightly-strong target), but also even numbers of dice.

I’m going to be expressing a lot of things in dice rather than HP.

Edit: Some good comments about “out of the fight” and “dead” not being the same in GURPS. Point profoundly taken, but the question that Peter tossed my way was “how much damage is required to kill.” I took that as “in one turn,” because bleeding is optional and (in my opinion) factored into the decision to not deal with blow-through in the 4e rules. 

One Word About Armor (for now)

Armor gets a one-word mention here: it’s what you have to bypass to hit the creamy center, and it can get pretty high at TL7 and TL8.

Vitals and Brain

The fact that the brain and vitals’ wound multipliers are x3 and x4 regardless of injury type or size (they overwrite bullet size) means that it becomes generic to look at.

Vitals: To threaten death to the vitals, you must bring a weapon to the fight that does at least 1d+1 or 1d+2. To threaten a single death check on an average roll means you need at least 2d+1. Auto-death is from 4d and 7d, respectively.

Brain: It’s even lower for the brain, of course, but you’ve got that pesky DR 2 skull to deal with. That makes the minimum 1d+2 for the brain, and about 2d+1 for an average shot to force a single check. For auto-death, you can’t do that without a minimum of 3d+2, and you won’t do it on average without 5d+3 or 6d-1.

Weapon me: The short version, with some slop in it. You can get by with a .22 LR pistol (Ruger Standard Mk1) to the vitals, but not the brain, due to the skull armor. A single pellet of buckshot is likewise fine if it hits the vitals, but not the skull. To theaten either vitals or skull, you need 2d+1, which is carry-sized (4″ barrel) 9mm like the Glock 19, Walther P99 or PPQ, or a .40 S&W or 9mm subcompact. In short, a 9mm or .40S&W pistol. Note that a .45 ACP will do for the vitals but not the skull, since it’s only 2d or 2d-1.

For auto-death, you’re looking at weapons that can do 4d minimum to 7d on average for the vitals, and 3d+2 to about 6d-1 for the brain. In short, the only SMG that meets these minimum criteria is the H&K MP7. The P90 comes the next-closest, but doesn’t get there. Basically, upgrade to a full-power subcaliber cartridge to have a chance: even the 10.5″ barrel on a 5.56x45mm carbine like the XM177E1 Commando (4d pi) will do it, but to get to auto-death territory, you want something with at least a 6.8x43mm cartridge (6d from a 16″ barrel) all the way up to a battle rifle (7d) in 7.62x51mm.

Shoot a lot: These are all one-shot numbers. If you are firing at an unarmed person and skilled enough to hit a bunch of times, nearly any weapon can do the trick. All SMGs have Rcl 2 from High Tech, so if you can eke out enough skill to absorb the -3 to the vitals and -2 to hit twice, all of a sudden that P90, with 50 shots, looks pretty attractive. Two shots to the vitals with a 4d carbine racks up 12d in injury to an unarmored foe, which is a fast ticket to auto-death at -5xHP as well.


The numbers for the torso are subject to injury modifiers. But you still need 4d to 7d injury to threaten a death check with a single shot to the torso. That is:

Death check thresholds – one shot to torso
8d pi- minimum
4d pi minimum
2d+2 pi+ minimum
2d pi++ minimum

For a handgun, you have to go a bit nuts. A .44M will do it, so will monsters like a Super Redhawk in .454 Casull or the movie-popular Desert Eagle, whose .50AE cartridge cracks the scale at 4d pi+. I’m sure there are others in the overkill department. Interestingly, a full-sized .40S&W such as the H&K USP, the Glock 22, or the Walther PPQ with the 5″ barrel will all hit 2d+2 pi+, so it’s barely possible to threaten a one-shot death check with a service handgun.

Most assault rifles are in the right range here. Most SMGs aren’t. To average a death check, you need 6d-7d or so injury, and so that’s two hits from a pi+ weapon of decent velocity, or two from a pi rifle type. One hit from a battle rifle in .308 or .30-06 will do it too.

Auto-death is either “bring a .50BMG” whose 6dx2 pi+ technically still doesn’t cut it for auto-death to the torso (18d vs 21d), or shoot people a lot. Three rounds to the torso with a battle rifle will do it.

Final Word on Damage

The moral of the story here is either have a low-damage weapon that you can hit with a lot in one turn, or a much higher one. If you’re looking to drop a foe in one shot, the primary target for an unarmored person is the vitals, not the skull. Skull shots are cool and all but the difference betwen -3 and -7 is two extra hits to the vitals, plus the DR 2 for the skull actually makes it a tougher kill for pistols especially.

More Words About Armor

The torso armor table on High Tech p. 66 hits the key bits that throw the above calculations to the wind a bit. A fragment vest is the equivalent of about 1d+1 right off the top of your weapon, and more serious protection like a a concealable or assault vest is more like 3d+2. That’s before you add trauma plates worth another 7d. If the “dragon skin” concept meets or exceeds manufacturer’s claims (there was some controversy in the past), it’ll soak up about 14-15d (defeating 7.62×51 AP ammo at 2800fps is no joke).

At that point, the torso and especially the vitals become effectively non-viable.

Modern ballistic helmets also grant about 3d+2 (DR 12) to the skull. The Advanced Ballistic Helmet (Pyramid #3/57) is DR 16 (4d+2).

In both of these cases, only a direct hit from an assault or battle rifle, or a powerful SMG with AP ammo will do.

You may even have to shoot at the face, assuming no visor, and hope for that 1 in 6 chance of hitting the skull anyway (optional rule, p. 16 of Tactical Shooting).

With proper armor, the available targets start to get limited. Face, maybe the neck, and limbs.

Parting Shot

In a way, there are no surprises here. Aiming for the vitals is a good idea if you have a defensive weapon (read: decent power handgun) and can end a discussion promptly – but likely not force a target into the -5xHP real of auto-death.

A rifle shot to the vitals will have a good chance of ending an argument at -5xHP in one shot, and hitting the torso multiple times can do that too. But note that with Rcl 2, it’s easier to hit the vitals once at 3x damage in many cases than to hit the torso three times – the vitals are the better bet!
If your opposition starts slathering on advanced body armor, you’re going to have trouble. You’ll need to custom-order some stuff, such as an AR-10 platform in .300 WSM (8d+1 from a 20″ barrel) if you expect to face the kind of DR that a modern trooper can put on his chest. At this point, the goal is likely “keep their heads down until your designated marksman or sniper can take them out.”

Yesterday’s post on Armor as Dice generated more commentary than any content-related post I’ve had in a while. So booyah, that’s good. Lively discussion and all that.

However, +Jason Packer asked a question that echoed (and contrasted with) another poster’s comment about ensuring that you just subtract armor from damage and, if this is greater than zero, rolling the rest as injury.

Why not roll both?

The answer doesn’t lie in the realm of complexity or avoidance of such. It lies in the realm of observed behavior of real-world stuff.

Ballistic Protection and You

Let’s start with page 2 of Ballistic Resistance of Body Armor: NIJ Standard-0101.06, where the definition of a Level IIA vest is discussed:

2.1 Type IIA (9 mm; .40 S&W) 

Type IIA armor that is new and unworn shall be tested with 9 mm Full Metal Jacketed
Round Nose (FMJ RN) bullets with a specified mass of 8.0 g (124 gr) and a velocity of 373 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (1225 ft/s ± 30 ft/s) and with .40 S&W Full Metal Jacketed (FMJ) bullets with a specified mass of 11.7 g (180 gr) and a velocity of 352 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (1155 ft/s ± 30 ft/s). 

Type IIA armor that has been conditioned shall be tested with 9 mm FMJ RN bullets with a specified mass of 8.0 g (124 gr) and a velocity of 355 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (1165 ft/s ± 30 ft/s) and with .40 S&W FMJ bullets with a specified mass of 11.7 g (180 gr) and a velocity of 325 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (1065 ft/s ± 30 ft/s).

OK, from a GURPS standpoint, we’re looking at 124gr 9mm ammo at 373m/s, and 180gr .40S&W at 352 m/s. If you use my bullet model, that’s 10.1 points of penetration for the .40S&W, or 9.1 points for the 9mm – surprisingly to me, the .40S&W is the greater threat.

So based on these criteria, a threat level IIA vest should stop that average damage (that’s how GURPS DR is defined), so let’s call it DR 10. All of this is for a new vest, but the upshot of the “conditioned” vest standards is about a point less, or about DR 9.

Note that threat standards have gone up over time. I believe a Level IIA vest used to be rated more along the lines of .22 LR and lower velocity .38 special, maybe .45ACP . . . but NIJ revised their standards in July 2008. The IIA used to be DR 8 or thereabouts. I’d have to go back on old Forum posts for that one, or just check GURPS Cops, by Lisa Steele.

Now, a .45 ACP has but 450J or so, compared to the very hot 725J (hotter than a lot of standard 10mm Auto bullets!) contained in the .40S&W spec. A Level IIA vest will stop a .45ACP pretty much always under the test conditions.

But the variability in penetration if you roll damage vs DR 10 is 2-12, so there’s a small but real chance of a .45 ACP defeating this vest. If you take a more reasonable .40S&W at 320m/s (1050fps or just shy of 600J) for 9.1 points of damage, the vest should always defeat it, but 2d+2 vs DR 10 has a reasonable chance of overmatching the vest. A weapon down to 2d-1 is still a legit threat, and it really shouldn’t be.

Thus, the “Armor as Dice” concept, which applies the average damage of a bullet, 2d for a .45 ACP, 2d+1 or 2d+2 pi+ for .40S&W depending on load, 2d+2 pi for 9mm NATO standard to the average DR (in dice) of the bullet. You have to overmatch the armor before a penetration occurs.

You could get similar effects by taking the bullet average damage (7, 9, and 9 respectively) and looking at DR 10 and saying “nope.”

Missing the vest and hitting the armor is usually handled by critical hits (one option is halving DR) or targeting chinks.

In fact, considering critical hits, it might be a good idea to rewrite the table if using Armor as Dice – or at least re-interpret it such that for firearms, any “max damage” results have an armor-reducing effect instead. “Max Normal Damage” and “Double Damage” results should be rescoped for this case as “half DR.” “Triple Normal Damage” would be easy as “1/3 DR or Armor only provided one point of DR per die,” which are mildly equivalent.

Parting Shot

The overall point of armor as dice – originally – was to ensure that the variability of a normal 1d6 or 2d6 distribution didn’t overwhelm plausible verisimilitude by providing the propensity for a teeny bullet like a .380 ACP from overmatching armor or a vest that it would simply never do in real life. The .45ACP, which is a fine man-stopper but being huge and slow is a poor penetrator, is a more credible example of the type of round that is stopped fairly routinely by lower protective armor.

The side effect of this, in play for me, was much simpler calculation of “threat/no threat” decisions in the black ops game I played a while back, where I could pretty much instantly determine how much injury a victim would take with very quick math. 
But the overall question, “why not roll both?” goes in the opposite direction of what expressing dice of DR is supposed to accomplish.
How about Partial Variability

Now, if you want more complexity, either because you do much of this stuff with a computer or you just groove on it, I’d probably look to one of the optional rules in Armor Revisited to fix this. 6d damage would be expressed as 18+1d instead of 6d. DR 18 might instead be something like 10+2d. You could roll both and see what goes through (8-1d injury).
I’m not sure I’d do it that way without a computerized game aid, but it’s certainly doable.