Movement in GURPS combat is incredibly generous. Every turn, you may begin from a standing stop, travel in one second (or a part of it) up to your Move, which may be 4-7 yards, and wind up perfectly still and balanced, ready to either not move, continue your pace, turn, accelerate to attack speed, or whatever.

Is this realistic? Well, Usain Bolt in his first second of one of his world record sprints managed to cover about 40% of his assumed Move, which was calculated as his max velocity during that race divided by 1.2, to account for his sprint bonus. So even the best sprinter on the freakin’ planet should probably be limited to Move/2 for acceleration in realistic games.

Also, that kind of stop/start is tiring. You can easily exhaust yourself vibrating all over a sparring arena at the equivalent of a healthy jog (Move 4 is about 8mph, or an 7.5 minute mile; Move 6 is a 5 minute mile pace even without a sprint bonus!).

Anyway, so The Last Gasp has costs for movement that are, in a word, punishing. To do a run-around attack as described in the Basic Set can cost something like 8-9AP due to all of the movement and sharp turns, plus the attack itself.

So despite the emergent behavior that fights slow down a bit to allow people to recover their wind, the fact of the matter is there’s a huge disincentive for a character to stir from his starting spot at the beginning of combat.

There are two versions of the movement costs presented in the article, though the wording is (shame on me) not entirely clear. One version is that you pay for every step, at a cost of something like 1 yard for free, and 1 AP for each additional 20% of your Move. Or something like that. The other version is that you pay for acceleration, but further maintenance of that velocity is free. So you still can encounter the phenomenon of “activation energy,” where players won’t want to make the AP spend to get going.

So despite the Lulls and Flurries that are an observed emergent behavior of the Action Point rules, the battlefield might not be as mobile as you’d like.

Keep it Simple, Keep it Safe

So, what to do? Well, one suggestion on the forums was to make a “movement only” AP regeneration pool. That’s certainly one way to go, and probably adds the right level of points to the character sheet for those who have reduced movement costs. But if we try and keep it simple, I’d do something like this:

AP Costs

  • Acceleration up to Move/2 is similar in concept to an Attack. It costs 1 AP. You still get your first step for free, and beyond that, any acceleration up to Move/2 costs that single point.
  • Acceleration up to Move is like an All-Out Attack, and costs 2 AP. Again, you get the first step for free.
  • Acceleration from full Move to Sprint speed costs 1 AP.
  • Deceleration from movement other than a step costs 1 AP if you were moving up to your full Move, and 2 AP to stop dead from a sprint. That should probably involve a DX and/or HT roll to see if you can do this without injury. You may decelerate at up to 20% of your Move per second for free; sort of an anti-step.
  • Facing changes can either be entirely free, or cost 1 AP for 2-3 facing changes in a move action, or 2 AP for 4+ changes within a move.

AP Maintenance Costs

Moving about is still tiring, but one way to deal with this is that at the beginning of each turn, if you’re moving more than one step at a time and wish to maintain that speed, make a HT roll. Succeed and the AP cost of your movement goes down by 1; succeed by 5+ and the AP cost of your movement goes down by 2. On a critical failure, you slow down by (say) 20% of your move, while on a critical success, you need not spend any AP to continue your speed next turn.

Another way to go, which is more in line with some of my original thoughts many moons ago, would be that you roll HT (or Running) every turn for sprinting, while at lower speeds, you roll every N turns (and I’d probably try and invoke the Speed/Range progression here somehow).

Parting Shot

To create a mobile battlefield, there needs to be a lack of disincentives to move. If you can easily translate from place to place with limited AP spend, but actual fighting is AP intensive and creates incentives to pause, evaluate, and generally chill out, then you have created a situation where players and NPCs can come to each others aid, and repositioning doesn’t simply deliver an exhausted combatant to be ground to dust.

The current movement rules don’t help create that mobile battlefield, and may even be too restrictive even in a realistic mode. Flat-out lowering the AP costs for movement should go a long way to encourage people to fight for position as well as strength of arms.

The other thing that changing AP cost avoids that requiring something like AP Recovery advantage does not is that it can be dropped into existing games with existing characters. You don’t need some expensive (and some of the AP recovery rates are very expensive, on the order of a hundred points or more) advantage to be suddenly tacked on to your character. You just change the costs and go.

That being said, if one were looking for a switch, to allow differentiation between “can move about the battlefield like a ferret on crack” and “everyone else,” I’d probably tack on something equivalent in point cost to Trained by a Master. At 30 points, that’s like getting a 2/3 discount on recovering 5-10 AP per second for use only in movement. So if you’re looking for a design toggle:

New Advantage: Ferret on Crack

30 points
This advantage lets you alter the AP costs for movement to a lower value, as described above. In games where the GM has decided that the AP costs above are just right for realistic characters too, perhaps this halves AP costs (round up), so that it only costs 1 AP to move anything beyond your step, and gives +5 to HT when rolling to avoid AP loss when maintaining speed.

Will it work in play?

No idea! Lowering AP costs for movement seems like a good step in general to enable a more mobile battlefield, and keeping AP costs to the 1 AP for effort and 2 AP for strong effort theme in the original article makes a lot of sense.

+Jake Bernstein sent me this note via my Google profile, and it seemed like a good topic by itself:

Just had a random thought about this topic. I’m pondering a Banestorm game, and I am thinking of how to resolve the very “in-play” specific problem of archers and mages needing lots of time to get off their attacks. What’s to stop the melee fighters from just going to town? In 150 point games, the calculus is bound to be different compared to the 250 point combat-focused delvers in DF. So, I thought, should people learn to Evaluate more? But why would you evaluate more if the other guy can just pound on you while you sit and watch him? At low skill, this is dangerous–your defenses aren’t going to be impregnable! So, here’s the idea: what if Evaluate could be combined with All-Out Defense?? Alternately, what if Evaluate gave the same bonus to your defenses, until you attacked? Either way, the point is that Evaluate would boost your defenses while you were doing it. I think this MIGHT give people reason to try it more often, especially in a lower power game. Since you have been noodling on this subject for a while, I thought I’d ask you specifically. Feel free to use any or all of this on your blog, if it sparks any ideas in you! THanks!

So, what happens when you step away from Dungeon Fantasy power levels? The thing about a DF Scout, especially with a few juicy house rules, is that it’s quite possible for an archer archetype to average more than one arrow every second. There are types of targets that Scouts can’t engage, but rate of fire is not on the problem list.

Mages tend to be a little different, since they’re on the one hand very powerful, and a spell like Burning Death or (in my personal experience as GM) Tickle can be surprisingly effective fight enders, especially for many-on-one fights. Having to spend a few turns gathering up energy is annoying, though – but I have to wonder if it’s worth it. The FP/mana points a character can spend are limited, and spending a few seconds powering up in combat isn’t really the rate-limiting step. It’s the total amount of FP you sling, and once you’re out, you’re out, at least for that fight.

Anyway, +Peter V. Dell’Orto actually came up with another good one (it’s like he does this professionally or something), and suggested that if you spend a FP using Feverish Defense, you could recover it by taking All-Out Defense. He also reminds me that we talked about this once before, and I more or less came up with variations on what’s below then, too. I must like them.

All-Out Defense Combos and Variations


Jake lists a few options above:

Evaluate combines with All-Out Defense


Combines isn’t specific, so let’s see. It could either include AoD in full or in part. So perhaps if you Evaluate, it gives you +2 to one defense, but not the double-defense option (or the other way around). Another fun one would be giving you an extra retreat, instead of just one per round, due to watching out for your surroundings.

He also suggests that Evaluate effectively be All-Out Defense until you attack. I’d have to think about how this works, since Evaluate and Attack are both maneuvers you take on your own turn.

Evaluate is a Focused AoD?


What if Evaluate not only gave you +1 to attack a guy in a following round, but against the target you were evaluating, it also counted as AoD? You would have to choose your target, but you’d be better protected and slightly more likely to hit on the following turn.

I like this quite a bit, actually. You’re watching one foe specifically, and so you get bonuses if you are attacked by him. You don’t take a penalty to other defenses – though maybe you should. If you All-Out Defend (Evaluate), you get the benefits of AoD on your foe, +1 or +2 per round to hit him on your next attack, but you defend against all other foes at -2.

Opportunity Costs
One of the issues, I think, with Evaluate is that the opportunity costs are very high. Sure, you can Evaluate, but what else can you do with your one-second turn?

  • Wait – a darn good option, since by virtue of setting a trigger, it allows you to make your attack of choice under more favorable circumstances (at the risk of not making one at all)
  • Attack – the “just pound on him and/or go fishing for critical hits” is always a viable option (well, often, not always), and can seem more entertaining than doing little/nothing for a turn to get a +1 to hit
  • Move – time to reposition yourself on the battlefield can be rare in GURPS. Moving, especially if you’re moving to a flanking position, or threatening to do so and therefore opening up someone’s flanks, can be a great way to boost effective hit rates for the party as a whole
  • All-Out Defend – Not getting dead is a good thing
  • Feint or Setup Attack – Why settle for a +1 to hit next turn when you can get so much more?

The key to a “successful” Evaluate – meaning making it worth spending a maneuver on – is that it seems like a good choice at the time relative to other things that are available. At the moment, like Jake, I’m not sure it does. Some of the above possibilities might restore that balance.

Parting Shot

Still, it might be worthwhile trying a few 150-point fights in real circumstances first. My very first musings on the ebb and flow of combat basically returned to the classic Dell’Ortism about whether the problem you’re trying to fix has come up in actual play.

This could be that as well, especially at the 100-150 point level . . . but maybe not, and while things like The Last Gasp can make fighters periodically back off (or just go for broke and hope they exhaust the foe before they drop themselves), at lower point levels, playing an archer who gets one shot off every three seconds, at moderate skill level, might wind up being an exercise in frustration.