Thursday is GURPSDay, and after thinking about the concept of encouraging more Roll and Shout when doing Quick Contests last week, I ended on a cliffhanger saying that I thought there’d be a good way to adjudicate guns combat a bit faster.

Not much about GURPS task resolution at its core is hard. Roll 3d6 under the target number. For skills, margin of success mostly doesn’t matter, because your choices tend to be front-loaded by design.

What does that mean? If I want to chop a leg, or do a tricky blow that speeds past defenses, I declare it as part of the maneuver, and then it’s a yes/no did you do it or not, mostly.

Obviously that’s not always true, and there are a lot of cool effects where Margin of Success matters – not the least of which is rapid-fire with guns, the very case we’re discussing here. Still, my guidance when I was writing rules was to encourage front-loading the decisions.

In any case, the thing that takes the time in GURPS is – nearly always, in my experience – working out modifiers. That’s why the Dungeon Fantasy monster writeups are so cool. They list out a monster’s attack with the attack name, a flat skill to roll against. Sure, you can stack on a hit location modifier, etc. But usually you don’t. If a monster typically attacks the leg, it’ll be noted, and statted out for you. 

The goal here is to make firearms combat as similar to that as possible, where the goal is to get things “close enough to right” that there’s a balance between differentiation on the character sheet and speed of resolution. 

With that in mind, I’m going to have “penalty classes” and “bonus classes” with fixed values that approximate things that are usually done with a resolution of +/-1 to skill. The usual considerations will apply, but we’ll try and speed things up.

If this offends, just stop reading. If assessing all of this is so trivial that your whole table does it by instinct, that’s awesome. But since one of the last games I played had everything from “I’ve never played in a RPG before” to “I’ve written books for GURPS” side-by-side, it might help.


Penalties


Modifiers to skill for guns are plentiful and stack up some of the largest penalties in GURPS. The biggest two offenders are range and target location. Range can be arbitrarily high and penalties start accruing for anything at 3yds away or more. Hit location spans from -0 for blazing away at the torso to -10 for shooting through an eyeslit in a helmet. Lighting penalties also range from 0 

Simple Range, Location, and Environment

To cut down the granularity and lookups, use the following simplified tables. They are somewhat intentionally vague. The -2, -4, and -8 penalty regimes are basically the Close, Short, and Medium range bands from GURPS Action 2 (the box at the bottom of p. 31).

By and large, unless you’re dealing with characters with firearms base skills over 20, a good rule of thumb will be that a shot with net penalties (accounting for bonuses, below) eats up more than half the skill probably won’t be taken. In reality, people will often blaze away with net skill in the 5-7 range (6- being 10% chance to it, 7 being about 15%, and 8 being 25%). My experience is that PCs will usually strive for net skills of at least 12, but that’s not always practical or possible.

Non-ideal conditions

The goal here is to boil it down to three choices. Shooting inside a well-lit open room for the generic center of mass? -4 for range, no other penalties. Going for a head shot in a cube-farm? -4 for head, -4 for significant obstruction, for net -8. Between the eyes across a sports stadium in a storm? -12 for range, -8 for target, and -8 for the storm. That’s -28, and good luck with that.

Note this chart makes shooting for the vitals and the head (which of course in 4e GURPS, but not casual vernacular, the “Face” or the “Neck”) indistinguishable. Yeah. The goal here is to find an intermediate penalty and generic effect for something similar to a vitals, face, or neck shot. Vitals is -3 and x3 damage. Neck is no effect from piercing. Face has knockdown at -5, and hits use the Critical Head Blow Table, etc. I figure an intermediate penalty, extra damage, and knockdown roll for all would probably be a good blend. But . . .

If you despise the “Location” column and prefer the existing Hit Location and effects, just use them as-is. The key for the table above is that it’s fast and meets player expectations. If a player has memorized the location penalties and effects, boom. No time spent. 

Rapid Engagement and Targets


By and large the only other penalties that show up are 

  • Bulk penalties for moving and shooting or fighting in close combat. Use -2 for pistols, -4 for combat rifles, SMGs, and self-defense shotguns. Reserve -6 for full-size muskets, battle rifles, and sporting guns (long-barreled hunting rifles or shotguns used for bird hunting, skeet, etc.). While the usual penalty for rapid acquisition of targets is -2, using the bulk penalty instead is a good way to sweep up any sort of “my gun is moving while I’m trying to do stuff with it” or “I have to slew my weapon rapidly across the target” into one category.
  • Multi-target engagement is for pointing at more than one thing at a time. Two point targets on the same object, or two different targets are the same penalty: -6. Theoretically you can call it -6 for each target beyond the first, but in practice that stacks up so fast that doing more than two is impractical.

Bonuses

There are a few situational modifiers that give you bonuses, some of them can be quite significant. All of these assume a rapidly changing, chaotic combat environment. So while you can often be awarded significant bonuses for non-combat conditions (see Tactical Shooting, p. 9), that’s not what I’m talking about here.

Equipment



The other good stuff that adds to skill are things like laser sights and reflex sights. These adjust skill directly, so that +1 you get from a reflex sight isn’t something that changes from shot to shot. You always get it, so just increase base skill – if you can do this as a Conditional Add on an automated character sheet, so much the better.


Maneuver Selection


There’s really only one option here for ranged weapons: All-Out Attack (Determined), which gives +1 to hit. While that’s significant in terms of mathematical result (you’ve just extended your accurate fire range by 50%), in practice the measly +1 doesn’t offset the total loss of defenses. 

Also, there’s another thing you can do to hit with another +1, which is to Brace the weapon. This is two hands on a pistol, two hands plus a sling for a rifle-type weapon. This is often only available if you Aim.

Unikitty says never AoA

To encourage the use of all of these, I’m going to wrap these up into one selection: Committed Attack: Determined and Braced. If you choose to do this, you get +2 to your skill, but suffer -2 to all defenses. You can take one step as part of this, or two steps but you get no bonus to skill. 

No, it’s not realistic. If you’re doing this, by and large you’re not defending. This is clear in Tactical Shooting, and it’s based on real study of real shooters, who are not ready to fling themselves aside, parry a sword, or otherwise react to something crazy happening.

It is, however, practical from an opportunity cost perspective. In GURPS the cost of losing your defenses is gigantic. To the point where I’ve heard it articulated that All-Out Attack is something you should never, ever, ever EVER do.

So this tones it down a bit, but puts together things that often go together in practice: a determined, braced attack. Sure, you might not have the sling or two-hands for a pistol. But whatever. The point of this is fast.

Aim and Lots of Aim


Each weapon has an Accuracy statistic, which is added to your skill when you take an Aim maneuver. In practice, this is the way the monster penalties are removed, too.

There are two ways to deal with this: note the actual Aim bonus for your weapon, and keep track of it. This obviously most consistent with published rules, and if you print out a character sheet using GCS or GCA, or even just look up your gear and write it down ahead of time, that’s right there on the sheet.

The other is to simplify it and make generic categories. 

  • Pistols: +2 following an aim maneuver
  • Combat Rifles: +4 after an Aim. This includes shotguns, assault rifles, carbines, etc. 
  • Sniper/Precision Weapons: +6 after an aim
  • Recoilless Beam Pistols: +6 after an aim
  • Recoilless Beam Rifles: +12 for aiming

Got all the time in the world and a proper scope? Can afford to pick your time to shoot? Double the figures above. Got Gunslinger? Add it every shot for pistols, add half for rifles. Just note that as an all-the-time bonus to skill, because that’s how it works in practice.

Double Acc for lots of time? That seems like a lot, but you can usually hold aim for two more seconds for an additional +2, and scopes get +1 for each doubling of magnification, and common scopes give +2 (say, the x4 ACOG type scopes) or +3 (8-15x). There are even 30x type scopes available, which are almost +4. Computer targeting, which is probably available if you have effective laser weapons, can get pretty crazy too.

If you feel it’s too high, just use +50% instead of x2 for beam weapons; +9 for pistols and +18 for rifles doesn’t seem wrong. The rest are quite possible, even routine.

Rapid Fire


The final category of bonuses tend to come from rapid fire. I’ve used a couple of really nice house rules for this one, the best of which is “bonus of half the SSR for shots fired.” This has a few advantages that I won’t go into here. But it produces values that look like the chart to the right.

In practice, I’ve seen three rates of fire, using this rule or no. Single shots, three shots, and ‘full-auto.’ So you get no bonus for the first, +1 for the second. Full auto tends to be “military weapons with rifle cartridges” at +2, “SMGs and 3-rounds with buckshot” at +3 and “OMG gatling guns!” at +4.

So just write down the bonus you get for whatever maximum rate fire you can eke out. It, again, makes things simple: Single shots and double-taps are no bonus. Three-round or four-round bursts are +1. Then you need to write down your personal value for “many shots.” That’s it. Yes, this ignores things like Fanning and other high-speed semi-auto stuff, but I’ve never seen those used in play. Others’ may have, so YMMV.

This again takes the existing GURPS rules for RoF and tweaks them, but this one is for the better, I think. The progression above fits better with how GURPS calculates weapon fire spread.

Posture


GURPS posture penalties are really designed around melee fighters. It assigns a -4 to attack from lying down, and no penalty to attack while standing.

Ranged modifiers require a bit more parsing. There are no bonuses or penalties for Attacking due to posture. Defenses are as-written. Target applies to attacks against the torso, groin, or legs (not skull, face, or arms) from most angles.

So pretty much you can just simplify and say that shooting a non-standing target is at an extra -2 for normally unpenalized attacks, but vitals and head are the same penalty, so you might as well shoot head. That turns the three-stage hit-location into

  • -2 Torso on prone foe
  • -2 Arms on prone foe
  • -4 “Head” on prone foe, and don’t bother with vitals
  • -8 Skull on prone foe

Being prone makes it easier to brace, but that’s not really reflected in the rules anywhere. I’d personally allow a two-handed firearm to claim the +2 for Committed and Braced without a sling while prone.

Parting Shot

This short checklist is designed to be fast and get you in the right ballpark. It’s supposed to blaze past the “fiddle” and get you to rolling dice. It’s a blend of generic difficulty modifiers and categories of “close enough.”

This one isn’t fiddly realism. It’s a close-enough blend of enough divisions to provide distinction between skill levels and weapon types, with enough consolidation that the GM and novice players can not have to figure penalties for each individual attack. 

Consider that for range bands, mostly players and bad guys tend to cluster in groups for range. “Punching in the face, with interspersed gunfire” is no penalty. Can close distance with a move at 15 feet or so is actually about the typical distance for low-light noir conflict. Within a small room? Also common. Beyond that tends to be “supporting fire” in the games I’ve played. So once you establish a range band, exceptions will tend to be only made for “crazy guy is running in to use the melee weapon he paid a lot of points for.”

The rest? Few enough choices to matter. Distraction level/environment is like BAD (Basic Abstract Difficulty) from GURPS Action, and will tend to apply to everyone.

Quickly, though, it should be as fast as the following. 

  • Range band (and that will tend to be ‘in close combat’ and ‘everyone else’)
  • Distraction and environment (open, moderate, hard, what are you thinking?)
  • Bonus: Maneuver (regular or committed for +2 attack and -2 to all defenses)
  • Bonus: Number of Shots (one, three for +1, many for usually +2 or +3)
  • Bonus: Aim (single bonus or double for all-the-time-you-need shots)
  • Hit location (torso, limbs, x3 damage, x4 damage/chinks)

The first two (bold) more or less applying to everyone in the combat at once. The Aim option only applies to those that wish to burn a turn aiming. The rest are individual choices, and will tend to have favorite choices by player. Higher skill guys will tend to shoot for the vitals/head (-4) using three shots (+1) when they can, etc. Sure you can mix it up, but skilled fighters tend to be trained fighters, and training often says “do this this way every time for best effect.” 

The key is to avoid analysis paralysis. Enough choices to be interesting, minimal look-ups and calculation (including ‘how far away am I from target X? How about target Y?’) in play. 

A good rule of thumb here is if the net skill drops below 6-8, just switch over to suppresion fire, and roll vs. 6+RoF bonuses and force Fright Checks on targeted foes. PCs in my experience won’t shoot with skill less than 8, and frankly would prefer 10-12 if they can get it, and 13-16 otherwise!

If by the time you get to the end of this post, your eye is twitching like Donkey from Shrek, go ahead and use the full-on rules. That’s what they’re for. But the level of abstraction above isn’t that high, and the number of choices has been – usefully I think – cut down to a bare minimum. 

You can also employ variable resolution here. Particularly important scenes that had a lot of planning go into them, or are the climax of a long series of intel gathering, tactical planning, recon, and then execution can use the full-on rules, which will tend to maximize the players advantages in training and equipment and skill. 

But for “someone pulls a gun and starts blazing away!” random violence, the quick-selection rules above are probably where you want to be.

I got some fast and valuable comments yesterday on the post on initiative and the OODA loop that I want to tackle in the harsh light of day, so to speak

As always, the commenter’s thoughts are indented, purple, and italicized.

Also note that alternate initiative concepts have been done before. +Christopher R. Rice did one on Reordering Initiative in a prior Melee Academy post, and +Peter V. Dell’Orto followed up with a spin-off concept over on Dungeon Fantastic. Both are worth reading.

I first want to deal with Raymond’s comment, because it gets to a bit of what I was thinking, and why. It’s the OODA loop part of the discussion.

I think the simplest change would be to allow the “initiative order” to change—currently it stays in Speed-order regardless of what happens. If you allow it to change, I would re-order someone when they act on a wait, and probably on certain “aggressive” defenses (like Aggressive Parry or Grapple responses like Arm Lock/Throw), which would make things make more chronological sense. I would also allow it to be changed on an Evaluate or Do Nothing maneuver. Doing so would mean that sometimes a guy ends up acting twice before another one, but that’s not necessarily unrealistic.

Changing the initiative order – which is currently descending order of Basic Speed, ties go to DX (I’ve also seen ties go to skill, but that’s into house rule territory), and further ties broken by something else – is fraught with peril in GURPS. So I’d not do that.

Kromm Speaks: 

Agreed. If the order is always ABCD ABCD, then everybody gets a “reset” after all possible rivals have had a chance to act. Unrealistic? Maybe, but GURPS is a game and fairness trumps realism for the majority of the customer base. 

If it’s possible to end up with ABCD DCBA, then A could get pounded on six times instead of just three times, B could get attacked four times instead of three, C would have to deal with just two possible attacks, and D would be free to All-Out Attack without consequences. This evens out after several turns . . . but there won’t be several turns if C and D are aggressive, especially if C and D are on the same side: A acts, B acts, and then C and D beat the jelly out of A and B using unanswered All-Out Attacks that saturate defenses. 

To make this work, you would have to rewrite much of the combat system. You would have to posit a universal turn and define what occurs at its outset — not just initiative rolls, but also duration countdowns and defense refreshment. This would insert bookkeeping phases between bouts of action. You would have to consider declarations, so that D’s intent to All-Out Attack has an effect, and/or make acting first a significant advantage. And so on. You would end up with a game that’s far more like a tactical boardgame or a wargame than like an RPG that prioritizes the Rule of Cool and player agency.

Beyond that, there’s the fact that some characters pay serious points for Altered Time Rate and Extra Attack so that they can gain benefits that the luck of the dice could give to anybody. So those traits would need rewriting, too, and there would probably need to be a “realistic” version of such abilities . . . which would then become the gimme trait that the Speed attribute is in the Hero RPG. So rewrites would spread to the character-creation rules. While a few diehard realism nuts like that idea, they aren’t even close to the majority.  

While I agree that having a fast, prepared guy go twice before another can react is not unrealistic, that’s not really the problem I’m trying to get at here. The key for me is offensive/aggressive action as opposed to defensive/reactive action. This is “what maneuvers will I use?” rather than “do I go first?”

The conceit or general idea here is that even if you’re the quickest (in speed order, which speaks to a point below), if you’re not mentally prepared to attack, then the more-aggressive options will not be on your list of things to do.

Kromm Speaks Again 

It’s worth pointing out that though Basic Speed is (DX + HT)/4, it *is* meant to represent mental preparation as well as reflexes. There are a lot of places in the rules — starting with “Mind vs. Brain” (p. B296) and treated in much more detail in GURPS Bio-Tech — that suggest that DX is partly or wholly a mental attribute, and represents the “acting” side of the brain rather than the “contemplating” side. The fact that so many IQ-based skills are floated to DX for action tasks is a further hint. I’m not sure I could successfully argue against a claim that DX and Basic Speed calculated from it are measures of aggressiveness and preparation. 

Honestly, I think that an Action Points system (now who do we know who has written one of those?) is the optimal way to handle ebb and flow. More prepared fighters have more AP. More aggressive fighters tend to spend more AP per turn, and if there’s a cap on how many you can spend per turn, they might have a higher cap. People who run out of AP can’t do as much. But everyone spends what AP they have *on their turn,* any refresh happens *on their turn,* and turns always cycle in the same order to remove a bookkeeping headache. The effect of taking two turns in a row, or taking and holding the initiative, comes from outspending your foe in AP, either on a per-turn basis (higher cap) or in absolute terms (more AP).

Initiative is such a loaded term for RPG use, that perhaps I should use a different one. Aggressiveness, perhaps. You may go first, but if your aggressiveness score is lower than your foe’s, you’ll take more defensive-oriented actions. Evaluate. Wait. All-Out Defense (Parry, Dodge, or Block). Or if you are going to attack, it will be a Defensive Attack. You’re more worried about him hitting you than you are about hitting him. 

So to the direct point: no, I’d never rearrange turn-order in the middle of the fight, because GURPS turns are not “second 1, second 2, second 3” on an absolute basis. Though sometimes I wish they were.

So, on to another commenter’s notes, with occasional reference to the prior issue and comment as well . . .

First, adding another die roll–especially one with so many potential modifiers to be calculated on the fly–could serve to bog down play.

This is absolutely true. The key, always, for new die rolls is whether they actually improve the game. Where possible, roll once strategies are better than “roll each turn,” if nothing else, it reduces book-keeping.

This is an issue particularly if you’re suggesting new initiative rolls before each round, which I assume is the case in light of your goal of simulating the ebb and flow of combat.

I could see a roll each round, but thinking about it, that means every character and NPC will face an extra die roll each round. That’s less cool than I’d like. That observation makes me think that a re-roll should be a side effect of an Evaluate action, or occasioned by a mid-combat Tactics or Leadership roll. Or even a Wait that is not triggered. This may not improve your situation, of course!

Or perhaps the penalties and bonuses for intimidation, wounds, stunning, etc. are enough to achieve this; it just seems a little luck (the die roll) would be welcome as well.

Many of the permanent  bonuses for things like combat reflexes will be fixed factors, serving in their own way like the permanent initiative bonus you get in D&D. The ebb and flow for wounds and stunning should provide the adjustment I need.

Again, as this idea develops, what I think would be useful is an Aggression score. If I did it right, it would be centered around zero, so that unless you had a positive Aggression number for the fight, your choices would be limited. 

Oh, but that goes against player agency! Yes it does, so instead of “you can’t do that” you’d wind up saying “do what you want, but pay for it.” So maybe if the normal bound of aggressiveness is -8 to +8, that you take a penalty to any aggressive actions equal to (say) twice the difference between your aggressiveness and the guy you’re fighting. His total is -2, but yours is 0? He is at -4 if he tries an Attack, Committed Attack, or All-Out Attack. If he chooses Defensive Attack or All-Out Defense, he’s fine.

Some of this could actually be a good thing. GURPS has so many options that having guidance as to what you’d do is not a bad thing, especially for the GM who might be controlling many characters. Oh, Bog the Barbarian’s aggressiveness is 6 this round, and his foe is at -2. Another All-Out Attack (One Foe) for him! Or something like that.

Secondly, besides “quickness of mind” and experience (tactics, combat reflexes), a characters quickness isn’t really considered, marginalizing a character’s attributes. An easy way to work it into the formula is to simply add a character’s BS to the initiative roll as well.

I disagree here, in that quickness is accounted for in the turn order itself. A fast character with a (perhaps temporarily) low aggression score might well act first and nail his foe with a Defensive Attack. This will impose shock penalties and such on his foe (lowering Aggressiveness) and provide a bonus to the successful attacker (raising his Aggressiveness). His foe, who goes after him in the turn order, may wind up facing a case where that first defensive attack puts him back on his heels, restricting his actions.

Turn order, and striking first, still matter here, I think.

Third, the influence of leadership makes sense, but would you add it in the case of single combatants?

No, I probably wouldn’t. A Will roll (or a Will-based weapon skill roll) might be the better call here, or even Tactics. I’ve written about other things that Tactics might be used for before.

And if one character were being ganged up on, would you still use leadership for the “gang,” with none for the “gangee?”

If it’s truly a gang, as opposed to a unit, perhaps leadership might not apply. But certainly a lower Aggressivness score would be appropriate if you’re being dogpiled. That being said, using the tentative ideas on an aggressiveness number above, it might be that a strong, skilled, Overconfident PC has full choice of maneuver in that situation. And there are going to be cases where dropping back and trying to defend is a terrible idea – taking the fight to the enemy is the right call. I’m not sure that’s something that you want to interfere with that much.

It would seem to emphasize the nature of initiative you’re trying to recreate.

Lastly, it seems that modifiers can potentially add up to a point where the roll of a single die wouldn’t matter. Do you think making the roll 2d6 would randomize initiative too much?

You may be right. the modifiers I tried to sketch out go from -7 to 14 with a 1d6 roll. With a 2d6 (and penalties/bonuses from -8 to 8), then the values go from -6 to 20, with a potentially much wider range for a particular fighter. I’m not sure that’s a good thing either. I would tend to want who has initiative to initially be determined mostly by the fighter himself, and then by the circumstances. The large range in a 2d6 or other roll doesn’t speak to me as favorable, but it’s the sort of thing that only playtest can tell.

Parting Shot

Ultimately, the concept here is to use something that measures the ebb and flow of the fight. What you don’t want to do is track it every single round. Getting wounded or driven back, or seeing a friend disemboweled should drive a change in Aggressiveness. But not something you fiddle with every turn. That way lies GM and player frustration.

What I would want to do is have a badass-o-meter ranking that helps the GM and player decide what tactics (specifically: maneuver selection between AoA and AoD, in the usual five steps) are on the table for a given exchange. This might even include something like “if Aggressiveness drops below -5, the combatant will seek to withdraw.” That’s something that is right now (usefully) left to GM fiat in most cases, but guidance is a good thing.

You can also differentiate fighting styles this way. Overconfident? Berserk or Combat Fury? Combat Reflexes? Fearlessness? Yeah – Aggressiveness likely goes up. Pacifism? Easy to Kill? Lower.

You might also use that sort of aggressiveness tally as a good way to gauge fear checks and pre-combat posturing. Think the muster of the Uruk-Hai in The Two Towers. Having that many orcs screaming for blood with high aggressiveness numbers is going to make for a very intimidating initial encounter. Until you get the “If it bleeds, we can kill it” rationalization going on. (Though that only worked out well for Ah-nold, in the end . . . )

Finally, a counterpoint on fair and unfair and realism and game-balance, from a professional instructor for firearms, self-defense, and use of force. He addresses the topic that it’s possible to go first (or not go first) and have a whole bunch of people pound you into a wet prune before you get the chance to go again.

Shawn Fisher speaks: 

Generally, this is not unrealistic. Is it unfair as hell? Yes. That’s why striking first is such a huge advantage. It sucks to get pummeled and never be able to seize the advantage. GURPS bakes in the first strike as a power you buy at character creation, and also through various stunning effects from hit locations and damage. There’s nothing wrong with that approach, but it’s equally possible to play without that. Instead, as you point out, you may be buying the right to strike first most of the time, but not all the time. As it is there is no ebb and flow, just first strikes all the time, if you choose. This is also the problem, if you will, of omniscient PCs who know where the enemy is, know the ammo count in their guns, know the ranges and mods and calculate them perfectly to avoid wasting a shot, etc. Can you critically fail Basic Speed? No. You can invest in DX and HT, which are uber important in combat and the by product is you get to whack the guy first. Every time.

This is why making a roll works. FWIW, I think even a (1d/2, or something) would be fine. That way Move 6 guy is probably safe from Goon with move 5, but not necessarily. He could roll 1 and get an order of 7 and the Goon could roll 3 and get 8. The ads might be +1/-1 for Combat Reflexes or Combat Paralysis, and that’s it.

Big follow-up post for me, with no fewer than seven people’s ideas being represented, including myself. I hope you enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed compiling it!

Thursday is GURPS-Day, and running up to next week’s Melee Academy topic on disarming, my friends and I are passing back and forth videos of violence. This led to a discussion of movie violence vs. real-world violence, and the differences between the two. The discussion came up for GURPS, largely because it has the depth of detail  that allows the discussion to be had at all.

Suffice it to say that when you look at real-world violence, one of the things that seems quite apparent is that “roll for initiative,” or “make a morale check!” isn’t just a suggestion, it’s the law.

This leads me to wonder if in more gritty games, it would be a good idea to separate Initiative and Speed. You still go in speed order, but there’s a moral/aggression factor that is different than who’s quickest.


What’s this?


Again, in movies, you see a lot of well-balanced fights. Two fighters trading blows more or less equally. You also see a lot of “this is the hero’s moment to shine!” fighting, where the Director, acting as GM, has decreed that the Mook is Just Going to Take It. If you’re watching the movie Equilibrium, this can be between the same two characters, in different parts of the movie. 

I won’t spoil it. But go watch.

In the real-world, what one tends to see other than in very circumscribed situations is that one fighter has the initiative, and the other reacts. This can change – and it’s often the goal of the one that doen’t have the initiative to make it change – during the fight.

GURPS “initiative” is really the order in which actions are declared. But fast on your feet doesn’t necessarily mean you’re controlling the course of a fight.

In the real fights I’ve seen, usually there’s someone who’s driving the action. They make a series of All-Out or Committed Attacks. The other guy is back on his heels. He’s either making Defensive Attacks or even taking All-Out Defense. 

This continues until the fight is over, or initiative somehow switches.

What are the rules supposed to do?


I got a note from Kromm on this one, which is worth reposting here to see just how far I’m going to deviate from the rules as they’re supposed to be:

“Surprise Attacks and Initiative” (p. B393) was *NEVER* intended to be used when two mutually antagonistic parties can see the other before hostilities begin! An initiative roll for partial surprise is made only in the two situations spelled out in paragraph 1 of those rules:

  • A party on alert (the “defender”) is engaged by a previously unseen party (the “attacker”). The defender was expecting hostilities but not necessarily from the attacker, who only just appeared. The initiative roll determines if being initially unseen gives the attacker the edge (attacker wins) or if the attacker fails to account for the prepared defense — in effect, the *defense* is unseen — and suffers a reversal (defender wins).
  • Two sides that were previously unaware of each other suddenly come into contact. The initiative roll determines who gets organized first and does something about the hitherto unknown threat. 

If the defender wasn’t expecting hostilities, there’s no roll at all that’s total surprise.

If each party could see the other before anyone got violent and each recognizes the other as hostile, there’s no roll — that’s standard combat, and who acts first is a function of the combat sequence.

Corner cases where two parties sight each other but don’t immediately go to fighting are best resolved by treating everyone as having taken a Wait and using “Cascading Waits” (GURPS Martial Arts, p. 108).

An Initiative Number


I’m wondering if this could be represented by some sort of initiative number. If as a fighter your initiative number is lower than your foe’s, you may only choose defensive attack or All-Out Defense. This is a variant on Untrained Fighters from GURPS Martial Arts (box on p. 113).

Rolling for Initiative is actually a thing in GURPS, as part of Partial Surprise (p. B393). The guidance for total and partial surprise is deliberately vague; there’s room for fiat and interpretation here. But some good examples for triggering it for the purpose of looking at initiative using the alternate rules would be:

  • An aggressor makes a successful Intimidation check
  • A defender is ready for trouble but fails a Perception check
  • During a fight, someone gets punched
  • A leader fails a leadership test
  • A fighter sees one of his side get thwacked hard
Looking at the YouTube stuff, you will often see that one fighter starts to dominate, and the other gives up. I saw this personally in several fights I’ve observed – at some point, one of the combatants just rolls over and gives up. You see this all the time in dominance displays in animals, of course.
Roll the Bones

Let’s use the same 1d6 roll from Partial Surprise. I’ll change the modifiers a bit:

  • If you have Combat Reflexes or Enhanced Time Sense, you get +2
  • The winner of a Quick Contest of Leadership gets +1 for their side (only one group qualifies here)
  • A successful Leadership roll by the side’s leader gets +1 (both can qualify for this)
  • If you have one point in Tactics, you get +1 for you
  • If you or your side are victorious in a Quick Contest of Tactics, your side gets +1
  • If you or your side are victorious in an Intimidation Check, you get +1
  • If you got hit last round, you’re at -1; if you were hit and injured you’re at -2; if you failed a Fright Check, you’re at -4, unless you were also . . .
  • If you were stunned, you go last, but you might figure the number in case one has to decide between multiple people who’s the least last
  • If you have to attack through a forest of high-reach weapons, you’re at -1 per each hex of Reach you’re down on your foes. Knife vs Reach 3 polearm? Yeah, -3.
  • If you don’t see any good way to hurt your foes (look! a shield wall! crap!) you’re at -1
I was just rattling off a bunch of modifiers, but let’s see if we can sum up.
  • Some advantages and disadvantages will give you permanent bonuses or penalties for the roll (0 to +2)
  • Leadership, Tactics, and Intimidation will impact the roll (0 to +4, perhaps)
  • Your perception of your ability to hurt your foe will impact the roll (0 to -2)
  • If you believe your foe can hurt you or just did, this will impact the roll, perhaps severely (-4 to +0)
  • If you think your side is winning or losing, that will impact the roll (-2 to +2)
I’d call for a re-roll of the dice if the “lower” initiative person actually manages to land a defensive attack against his foe – that’s a morale turning point that should be recognized. The total bonuses/penalties above could conceivably stretch from -8 to +8 with a d6 for randomization, so that’s a range of -7 to 14; plenty of room for all sorts of wiggle and interplay.
Parting Shot
This is just another aspect of morale in gaming, but with mechanical weight. The fact that you might “go first” because your fast, but be limited to less-aggressive options because you’re afraid or uncertain is just part of real fighting.
Now, stuff like this is a huge denial of agency to PC types. This restricts maneuver choice in GURPS to a degree that is intermediate between “you’re stunned, you must choose Do Nothing” and “you’re not stunned, do whatever you want.” It may strike people the wrong way.
That being said, such options do exist elsewhere – if you want to Aim and you’re using the rules from Tactical Shooting, you must All-Out Attack. I allow for a Committed Aim in On Target (Pyr #3/77), but defenses are always compromised.
The inability for an aggressor to choose Attack rather than only Committed or All-Out is maybe taking things too far, but again, usually one is either pushing the defender, getting pushed oneself, or has disengaged and is circling. 
Tying initiative and aggression to a Contest of Wills might be fun, too, where if you win the contest by a certain amount, you roll iniative and the winner will likely attack. Tie, and keep circling. 
It would involve more Intimidation, Tactics, Leadership, and evaluation engagement, which is good. 
It could also be something that’s just applied to NPCs (though I’m not a huge fan of such asymmetric rules, they have their place), which would give a “tide of battle” feel that is a real thing in conflict, but doesn’t jump out organically from the rules as they are now.

Yesterday during the latest Castle of Horrors GURPS session I got to experience, first-hand, the exact situation that makes some people run screaming from GURPS – or any game in which your turn is broken down into a very small segment in time.

Almost certainly, +Mark Langsdorf of No School Grognard will throw up a session summary.

Ultimately, though, what happened (so far as I can tell) was this: we set up camp after last session (which I missed) in the middle of the outer courtyard, under one of the castle’s 60′ tall walls. We set a watch and other useful things. The session opened with us getting attacked from the air by a bunch of one-to-two foot tall leprechauns who were rightfully pissed off that we’d stolen their pot of gold.

They attacked us with fire. Alchemists fire. After achieving near-perfect surprise.

The session basically went like this:

  • A period of time where it was all we could do to not die in flames
  • A (short) period of time where things were basically even, as they were nearly out of fire and spells/charms, but not entirely
  • A period of time where, for whatever reason, the tiny flying guys decided to attack our half-troll (ogre? something huge and nasty with thick skin) and could not do anything of value at all, meanwhile we were assured that nearly any hit was a fatality with us firing 7d6 firearms or shotguns loaded with buckshot at them.
  • At some point, the GM noted that the tide had turned, and it was just a matter of ammo expenditure to mop up the numerous but weak remaining foes. This is the third or fourth (third, I think) fight that has been ended this way.
However, and here was the problem, this manifested itself as my character, in the span of two hours, doing roughly the following:
  • Wake up and shout an alarm
  • Get set on fire
  • Roll on the ground and burn
  • Roll on the ground and burn
  • Roll on the ground and burn a little, and make a DX roll to put flames out (successfully)
  • Aim (it took about 90 minutes to this point)
  • Shoot
  • Aim
  • Shoot
+Kevin Smyth, one of the players, offered up that games with fast turns (like GURPS) can really be done well if you’re just whipping through options, calling them out, rapid fire.
This is exactly true. I’ve also never, not once, seen it happen. I bet +Peter V. Dell’Orto could pull it off, since he runs a pretty bare-bones DF game. But mostly, there’s a LOT of tactical chatter, option selection, and it takes players and the GM alike a while to resolve each turn. In fact, it seems to take as long to resolve each turn in this game as any other game I play. Mostly inlcuding D&D5, but the tendency for that game to default to “I hit the bad guy twice with my sword” for a lot of the group means that the game with the longer turns (in seconds of game time) tends to play pretty fast. 
I noted this before where in a S&W game we did 8 combats in three hours.
You can’t even complain that we were going that slowly in the GURPS combat above. There are five players and the GM, who was controlling at least seven adversaries (three flying bombers and four on the wall, I think). At fifteen minutes per cycle around the room, that’s about two minutes per player. Since we have some strict rules about chat and cross-talk and open mics, and a lot of what we’re doing we have to type into MapTool, that’s not awful.
Nonetheless, to spend fifteen minutes so I can stop, drop, and roll again (it takes three Ready maneuvers and a DX roll to extinguish oneself) is frustrating. It can easily be seen even among the patient as a player might suggest that in one second he can pull out a fire extinguisher while rolling out of the back of a tent while aiming his gun at a bad guy. The GM would then say (rightfully) “pick one.”
OK, I exaggerate a bit for effect, but if  you wait fifteen minutes for your turn, you want to accomplish something. 
I need to think more about this for my own games. A five or ten second clock on decision and resolution might be a way to go here. Having a queue or dual-pane thing going where you can pre-script your action during downtime might be another way to go. Because honestly, the “time dilation” effect where how much you want to do on your turn depends on how long you have to wait for your turn has been cropping up quite a bit, and not just in GURPS.
But ultimately, last night felt very frustrating for me in terms of useful and fun action per time spent, and since I’ve played other games, and GURPS games where it didn’t feel quite like that, finding concrete ways to deal with this issue seems key as both a GM and player
How have other people dealt with this when it comes up?

Had a brief interchange (not hostile) with another gamer in a different forum. The question was on Will rolls in gaming, and I noted that in The Last Gasp, I call for a will roll if you’re wanting to do something that drains a (now much more debilitating) Fatigue Point.

To quote pieces of the article:

“To simulate this, the turn after voluntarily losing or spending a FP, or immediately after an involuntary FP loss (such as getting hit by a FP-draining spell or power), roll vs. Will+3. If you fail this check, you feel the urge to stop doing whatever it is you’re doing.”

I’d said this was optional, and of course, it is. The comment was that it needs to be optional, because in an RPG setting, he disliked forcing PCs to roll in order to be heroic.

There are several options here, of course. The first is to not make the will roll (you can insert fear checks into this as well) needed at all. You just waltz into gunfire, or sprint at full power, and (in the fatigue example) just burn your Fatigue Points willy nilly until you collapse.

That’s the way most games play – and for the reason my interlocutor mentioned. You want them to be heroic, and take risks.

The other extreme is to make the Will roll, and if you fail, you simply can’t act as you wanted. If you wanted to stand up in the face of suppression fire to blaze away at a target . . . you can’t. Wanted to make a Heroic Charge or Feverish Defense? Nope. Sorry.

A middle ground would be to have a failed roll give some sort of penalty. Margin of failure (perhaps capped?) or derived from margin is good, but then so is something like “you can do what you want, but at -4, or -10 on a critical failure.” That still preserves full player choice – you can do whatever you want, but makes certain things the easier, quicker path (thus the way of the Dark Side!). You could stand up and shoot, but the additional penalties make it less likely to work, so you’ll shift position from behind cover instead.

The one thing you don’t want to do is disrupt the game for a die roll with no bite. If you’re calling for a will roll or some agency-limiting/drama-enhancing action, it has to have consequences. That’s one of the reasons why, in The Last Gasp (same section), I note:

Don’t bother rolling if your adjusted Will is 17 or higher unless the consequences of failure are dramatically significant and the GM is fishing for the rare critical failure. A competent combatant with his weapon skill at DX+2 (+2 training bonus) will thus roll vs. Will+10 when expending FP in combat. If his Will is 7 or higher, he can do so freely. Only if he is tired, demoralized, or terrified will rolling for persistence in a combat situation be required.

While the example was GURPS, this really applies to any game. Crazy stuff can happen, and it can make good games. But bringing out the dice should either mean enabling something good, or inflicting/avoiding something bad. Otherwise, just keep moving.

This was a bit of off-the-cuff, but I wonder if there should be a few more uses for Tactics, or the re-rolls granted by virtue of a successful Tactics contest, in GURPS. Tactics seems like it should do more, to me, anyway.

Things like:

  • Make a Tactics roll to get the benefit of partial cover when doing a retreating Dodge and Drop vs. an explosion. This would be to get the benefit of micro-environmental cover (that six to eight inch wave in the ground? Find it!) where such exists.
  • I wonder if you could use re-roll points to declare a Wait-and-Move on your turn. Basically, represent outguessing the enemy’s actions by letting him move first, then adjusting accordingly – even interrupting his move. He rushes you? You were waiting, and can move away.
  • As combat starts, when setting the turn order, look up your margin of success on a Tactics roll on the Size (and Speed/Range) Table. Make the Tactics roll by 5? You get +2 to your Speed for the purpose of setting initial turn order.
What other uses of Tactics (or Evaluate, for that matter) have you played with in your GURPS games?

+Christopher R. Rice laid down a post about using random initiative in GURPS that turned into both an interesting “GURPS 201” post (small house rules based only on the Basic Set) as well as a thought experiment.

Some notes:

  • GURPS combat is based on a fixed turn order. Mess with this at your peril, perhaps.
  • GURPS combat is based on a fixed person-to-person turn length and so messing with turn order might lead to the destruction of causality and the end of the world as we know it
  • GURPS maneuvers and action resolution frequently depend on turn order, especially things that resolve “on your next turn” or “until the beginning of your next turn.”

That doesn’t mean that rolling initiative can’t work, though. The uncertainty of “roll for initiative” can be a real feature.

For more commentary, there’s a thread going on the SJG Forums. Start here.

Every Point Counts


Having Basic Speed 6 instead of 5 can be expensive. It’s a minimum of 20 points per level to buy it up (p. B17). And it can cost as much as 80 points per level for +4 to DX. So if you’ve shelled out the points, you’re going to want to have an advantage there. In short, an extra point in speed should give a decisive advantage over a foe.

We probably want it non-linear, too. Each quarter-point of speed puts you even more decisively ahead in turn order.

Roll 3d6 of course


So if I were to do this, I’d probably ditch the concept of DX+HT/4 and just make it DX+HT for Speed. Move would still be divide by four and drop fractions.

But for turn order, take DX+HT (which for Joe Average is 20) and add 3d6. 

Combat Reflexes might add +3 as it’s a 15 point advantage, and Enhanced Time Sense gives +9.  

Someone that has Basic Speed 24 will only be out-sped by someone with Basic Speed 20 roughly 10% of the time.

You could also just run this as a Quick Contest vs DX+HT. So the typical margin of victory will be 14 for he who used to be Basic Speed 6, and 10 for Basic Speed 5. Act in descending order of Margin of Success. That might even allow things like “if you fail your roll, you suffer partial surprise; crit fail and it’s total – you were caught off-guard completely.” Combat Reflexes and ETS would have their usual prohibition (perhaps) against total surprise.

Roll Every Turn


The above is a fun way to establish a fixed turn order that will trend with the current “descending order of Speed” rule. Roll once, at the beginning of combat. Turn order is thus set.

But what if you want to roll every turn?

This can be an issue. You can get two declarations in a row, or your foes can, making it hard to hard to adjudicate Waits and things like Judo Throw, where after a Parry, you can usually count on stepping in for a throw without your foe getting a chance to step away from you.

On the average, though, I suspect this cancels out. For every time that a Wait is ruined because your foe goes first, the PCs will get a chance to act twice and ruin the foe’s day.

Where I think things get hairy is that typically, it’s presumed that every character’s action is a second apart from that character’s last action, but you don’t really know how much time elapses from character to character.

If you throw a grenade with a 3-second delay, it goes off presumably at the start of the thrower’s third turn after the throw.  For randomly resetting turns . . . when does it go off?

One possibility is to declare that GURPS does in fact have a specific round, and people move around within that time scale.

And the grenade: Give it its own die roll, at the same basic speed as the thrower. On the average, it will detonate on the third second from being thrown. But specifically? You don’t know quite when it will go off. So you might be able to run to it and throw it back. Or it might blow up in your face.

That would be another way to resolve long-distance sniper shots too. Hmm. Give the bullet a speed score, and have it arrive at some random time in a particular turn that makes sense based on the speed of the bullet. That might be able to be extended to even short-range shots (but I’d not bother) from guns, but might be an interesting way to figure out when ranged muscle-powered weapons hit (though again, the book-keeping factor here will tend to sink this idea).

Parting Shot

Random initiative or even turn-by-turn initiative might not break anything if done right, even in GURPS where some of the maneuvers and other options are built around the assumptions of fixed turn order. With the norming tendencies of the 3d6 roll, the basic tendency will be “descending order of Basic Speed,” but with slight differences in order depending on who rolls well. 

Many people seem to play GURPS (and speak about it) with a bit of a “round-based” instead of “turn-based” mindset anyway – perhaps a legacy from Dungeons and Dragons, perhaps not. I’d be interested to actively play a few sessions with both styles (roll at beginning of combat, and roll every turn) to see specifically what breaks, if anything.

+Peter V. Dell’Orto has an interesting note today about the challenges of the Retreat defensive option when using mapless combat. It’s worth a read.

I was intrigued by the option of just always giving people the benefit of increased defenses, the +1 for retreating for a parry/block, or the +3 for Dodge (or parry when using Karate, Judo, and Boxing).

Doing this will slow the game down, because there will be fewer hits and more trading of blows. Of course, I wrote The Last Gasp explicitly to slow the game down – or at least encourage pauses between frantic bits of action.

But these blog pages have seen a great deal of dialog on the subject of Evaluate, as well. In particular, the GURPS 301: Evaluate segment of Melee Academy.

Rereading my own work, I really like the idea of boosting basic “I’m standing there” defenses so that that “whoever attacks first is likely to win” flavor is diminished. In fact, one of the concepts that has been floating around for a bit is “Fully Enabled Defense,” which has you roll against full skill (or really, Skill-4) for defenses. One potential downside about that (which as Tbone notes is also present in every other contest or test of skill in GURPS other than those rolled vs half-skill, like parries) is that above Skill-14, defenses go up fast. 

Which brings me back to Evaluate. If you have naturally high defenses just by standing there, then some sort of Evaluate mechanic will be required before you start swinging.

In my suggestion to make effect rolls for Evaluate you’d want to double them (use swing instead of thrust) if using FEND type full defenses.

In any case, I think the base concept of increasing defenses at least for the first blow in a fight makes some sense, and for mapless combat, higher defenses also make sense since the players and foes will always take care to optimize their actions, and there’s little that’s obvious to stop them. 

Leveraging Tactics to back someone into a wall or on to difficult terrain would make a good alternate play here, too.

In any case, I like effect rolls, and I like the concept that you can start with higher defenses, but also with more opportunities to lower those defenses.

Setup Attacks are a deliberate opportunity to throw a blow that causes an opening. Treating Evaluate as an attack would allow “seeing what’s open” and then throwing an immediate attack as well at -6 to each while retaining defenses (or you can just Feint and Attack, if you don’t wish to retain defenses, or Feint, and then Attack, if you don’t mind taking two turns).

Based on my work with On Target, I’d probably not make the default of the Evaluate Per-based anymore, or allow DX or Per, which ever is better, for Evaluates. Looking for an opening is such a basic part of fighting that I’m not sure Per would be the right call here. 

Parting Shot

More on this later, perhaps. Suffice to say:

Peter’s comments about higher defenses in general are intriguing

I don’t necessarily care for a reasonably skilled warrior having a 50% chance (ish) to avoid an attack. Skill-12 is Parry-10 with a retreat. AoD, however, pushes this to Parry-12, for 75% effectiveness. That suggests something to me. again more later.

Defenses are on the rapid part of the bell curve in general. They tend to range from 7 to 11 for many characters, so small swings have big results. This probably makes for good games

Evaluate and target searching, either on attack or defense, is underutilized.

I like effect rolls, and I think bringing one into the Evaluate sequence would be a good way to increase the usage of that maneuver – it works very well in play for Aim, and it should have an equal impact for melee.

So I think there’s something here, but the Skill/2 type defense exists for a reason and has survived 30 years of play and playtest. I don’t think that’s just sacred cowishness.

There is a comparative dearth of ritual spells in D&D5.

On the way home from work the other day I was thinking what would happen if any spell could be done as a ritual. Higher level spells would simply take longer.

yes, I do a lot of my noodling while driving. Oddly enough, I have not yet crashed or gotten at ticket, despite driving a WRX. Go figure)

Even the Ritual Master Feat only allows you to cast spells with the Ritual tag.

Anyway, here’s the thought. You never want a ritual, even for a 9th level spell, to last longer than it would take to simply cast it and then take a long rest. You probably don’t even want to come close to that. So 4-6 hours to cast a 9th level spell as a ritual is probably as much as you’d want to go. Even 1-4 hours for that upper limit might be pushing it.

On the low end, casting a spell as a ritual usually adds 10min to the duration to cast. So the minimum time to cast anything as a ritual, even for a 1st level spell, should probably be 10min – maybe a bit longer because this doesn’t seek to overwrite the ritual tag, merely supplement. Let’s say 20min is the lower end.

That would make a time-to-cast chart look like this, with entries for “fast progression” and “slow progression.” I’m assuming a geometric progression, so each level is X times slower than the level before.

Spell
Level
Slow Cast Fast Cast
1 20 20
2 30 25
3 40 30
4 1 hour 40
5 1.5 hours 50
6 2 hours 1 hour
7 3 hours 1 hr 15 min
8 4 hours 1.5 hours
9 6 hours 2 hours

Truthfully, though . . . that’s not that interesting. If you can spare the time, you can cast anything fast. The “fast cast” progression doesn’t really do anything for me. I’d actually almost rather have the rituals start at something like five minutes instead of 20, and then stretch to 6 hours.
That would look like the following. Each step is roughly sqrt(3) larger than the previous one, but the numbers are rounded for convenience. No one cares abut a ritual that’s 48 or 50 minutes long; that’s “about an hour.”
Spell
Level
Casting Time
1 5
2 10
3 15
4 30
5 45
6 75 min
7 2 hours
8 4 hours
9 7 hours

Parting Shot
Ritual casting lets you trade time – a lot of time – for a spell slot. I think that the “use it right the hell now” aspect of combat spells will mean that is all this will do is let you ignore the expenditure of spell slots out of combat time for spells you already know, so long as you can afford the downtime. Sure, you could spend 15-40min to slow-cast fireball, but why would you? Are there situations that would make that reasonable?
Actually, there are. If you have time and the foresight to open up a combat with one big entry that doesn’t use a slot, and can arrange the prep time . . . sure. That’s worth rewarding.

After I posted the link to my thoughts on spending HP (and thus depleting a reserve of grit and skill) to do more damage to your foe (depleting his reserve of grit and skill) the poster Kalzazz made a comment, which had an interesting bit in it:

‘The enemy made his attack by 3, I need to make my parry by 3 to have a shot. He seems to be a normalish human looking guy swinging a broadsword, and I don’t think hes a weapon master or he would be throwing multiple shots or have a higher margin on his attack . . . . I am wearing light plate with fortify 1 . . . do I take the hit, or do I burn an HP to try and parry?’

 Hrm, I say.

The concept of trading margin of success of an attack directly for difficulty in making the damage roll isn’t how GURPS works, generally. When attacking, you make the risks ahead of time. I will attack for the face (-5) or the left leg (-2), and I’ll make my attack harder to defend against – a Deceptive Attack for -6 to hit in exchange for -3 to defend. So for the face punch at -3 to defend, I have to absorb -11 to hit. That probably means my skill is something huge, like 25, or I’m using one or more options, such as All-Out Attack, to boost my skill.

Having margin drive difficulty of defending tends to remove the incentive for targeting more-difficult areas (that same basic philosophy holds for when margin results in damage).

But what if that margin could mean something? I’m not sure I’d do this in vanilla GURPS, but if I were using Action Points, I might have post-attack margin impact defenses, but at a lower ratio than deceptive attack. 

So if -2 to hit gives -1 to defense when risked ahead of time, for every 3 or 4 full points of margin on an attack, the foe is -1 to defend. 

But . . . you can spend APto bring your defenses back up to normal. It’s not as draining (nor should it be!) as Feverish Defense, which is 1 Fatigue Point to get you +2 to a single active defense roll (and suggests 5 AP per +1 to your defense roll in general). At a 3:1 post-success tally, making an attack by 0-2 gives no extra benefit, 3-5 is -1 to defend 6-8 is -2, 9-11 is -3 (and making a roll by 10 often has other benefits). At some point you’ve probably rolled a 3-4 (at Skill-14 or lower) and have rolled a critical anyway. Perhaps it caps out, then – sort of a rule of 16 thing – so random luck can’t bless you with more than -3 to defend.

But that can be countered by spending an extra 3 AP. A few of those in a row, though, and you’re tired. Or using All-Out Defense to reap the benefit of the 2 free AP that maneuver gets you for such defensive moves. 

I’d have to play it to see if it’s more trouble than it’s worth (it might be). You’d have to really look at the AP economy as vital to fun and pacing.

I also sort of like the concept of spending as many AP as you like (but no more than 1 FP at a time, though you could get close) at a ratio of 5 AP per +1 to defend as a scaling version of Feverish Defense.

Anyway, Kalzazz took my D&D and thought about GURPS a bit, and I think there’s something there.