The Melee Academy series from Thursday got me thinking of alternate mechanics for disarms in D&D. The existing one is straightforward and usable. Roll a melee attack, opposed by your foe’s Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics).

But neither of those two really speak well to a disarm. If anything, a Saving Throw is almost more appropriate, but this seems like the sort of thing that should have its basis in combat skills.

In any case: the existing rule is not horribly broken, but I thought of another way to attack it.

To Disarm using a weapon:

Make a melee attack on your foe’s weapon. The hit number is 10 + DEX bonus (you get full DEX bonus even if wearing heavy armor here) + Weapon Proficiency. If you succeed, you have either struck your foe’s weapon sharply, or used your technique to bind and strip your opponent’s weapon from his grasp.

If you hit, you and your opponent both roll damage for your respective weapons (including STR or DEX, if appropriate – DEX requires a Finesse weapon). If the attacker’s damage exceeds the defender’s damage, a disarm occurs. Ties go to the defender.

If you have multiple attacks, you may certainly attempt multiple disarms against one or more weapons.

Special considerations

  • Treat a shortbow as 1d4, and a longbow as 1d6 for the purposes of resisting armed disarming attempts. You may not use a bow to attempt a disarm without an appropriate Feat.
  • Versatile weapons can use two hands to make or resist a disarm (so a longsword can roll 1d10) if a free hand is available.
  • Extra hands beyond two add +1 to the disarming “damage” roll to either resist or disarm if they can be placed on the weapon
Unarmed Disarms

Again, make a unarmed strike to punch or a Strength (Athletics) check to grapple the foe’s weapon or weapon arm. To-hit number is still 10 + DEX bonus + Weapon Proficiency. If you succeed, you have bypassed the weapon to strike or grapple the limb holding the weapon, rather than the weapon itself. 
If you hit, you and your opponent both roll damage using one die type lower than your usual hit dice (fighters do 1d8, clerics 1d6, magic users 1d4, etc). Unarmed strikes use 1 point plus the STR bonus for damage. Grapples do 1d4+STR bonus. Monks or other characters that have learned improved unarmed strikes may roll that damage instead whether striking or grappling, if it’s better.. 
If you have multiple attacks, you may certainly attempt multiple disarms against one or more weapons.
Special Considerations
  • If you miss on the attack roll when making an unarmed disarm against a weapon, your foe may make an Attack of Opporunity against your full AC including the effects of armor. In essence, he’s defending against your attack by striking your limb.
  • Treat a shortbow as 1d4, and a longbow as 1d6 for the purposes of resisting armed disarming attempts. You may not use a bow to attempt a disarm without an appropriate Feat.
  • Versatile weapons can use two hands to make or resist a disarm (so a longsword can roll 1d10) if a free hand is available.
  • Extra hands beyond two add +1 to the disarming “damage” roll to either resist or disarm if they can be placed on the weapon
Parting Shot
I like effect rolls, and I like how the better fighter in terms of both melee skill and ability to dish out damage will tend to win here. The damage roll means that if you try and disarm a great axe with a knife, the great axe will tend to win. 
On unarmed, the reliance on hit dice tends to mean that combative classes will disarm better than non-combative ones, which I like. I backed it down one die type because having Fighters with STR 18 do 5 points while striking but 1d10+4 for grappling seemed excessive, but 1d8 isn’t so bad.
If that bothers, then drop two die types, so if your hit dice are 1d6, you drop to 1 point, just like striking, but 1d10 will be 1d6, and Barbarian at 1d12 will do a mighty 1d8 when disarming. 
I was tempted to have the Grappler Feat be dealt with explicitly here. Options might include
  • Double damage on a successful hit
  • Expanded critical hit range (that might be weak sauce unless it’s very expanded)
  • Allows -5 to hit, but +10 damage for the purposes of a disarm if you attack with Strength Athletics)
As mentioned earlier, the existing rule isn’t obviously broken. But I like the nuance that this one provides. Swinging or grabbing the weapon is an exercise is striking a smallish object with a combat blow. DEX takes it out of the way, and proficiency with the weapon is a proxy for fighting skill. Damage is the power of the hit, and grappling and like techniques are strength multipliers. 
One can also see purpose-built trapping and disarming weapons coming into play here. As an example, just playing around
Sword-breaker: This weapon may be used in the off-hand using dual-wielding rules. If a bladed weapon attack misses by less than the defender’s proficiency, the defender may use his reaction to make a disarm attempt. If the sword-breaker’s damage is double or more that of the attacking weapon’s damage on the disarm roll, the attacker is disarmed and the weapon is also broken!

There’s an interesting thread with some strong opinions being given over on the SJG forums working out the details, pros, and cons of a house rule where you double HP (and DR). ST-based damage would be left alone, in order to restrict the muscle-powered weapon damage to penetration values more in line with firearms.

Given the wound probabilities (really, not necessarily that bad with modern medicine unless certain vital bits are hit – you’re going to be messed up but a fairly low probability of dying) the fix for firearms under this system would be to just give them all an armor divisor of (2).

So the general penetration formula remains the same. Wound modifiers would probably have to stack with hit location (so pi+ to the brain is x1.5 x4 = x6, while the vitals x3 and pi+ would be x4.5, rounded up to x5) in order to make up for the loss in low-grade lethality. Does that mean impaling goes from x2 to x4, and cut from x1.5 to x3? Probably not – those stay the way they are.

So, that’s the theory, and the pros and cons and dos and don’ts are pushing 90 posts, so it’s contentious in many ways.

Double HP and Cubic ST individual concepts

Still, I talked about this before. Rescaling GURPS HP had me musing about the pros and cons of using double the HP score, and its impact on resolution for things like body mass. My parting shot really only noted that the increased resolution that double ST/HP provided was pretty friendly.

However, even right before that, I’d noted that yet another concept, posited by forum user Wavefunction, which was figuring Basic Lift off of the cube of ST, rather than the “quadratic lift” basis of the current Fourth Edition rules (and compared again to the linear ST of the Third Edition and earlier rules).

The “good news” about that was that if you restricted ST to the current equivalent to a ST 20 (Basic Lift 80 lbs), that dropped the Cubic ST equivalent score to ST 16. At that point, you punched at 1d+1 (as much penetration as a .22 LR bullet), and swung for 2d+2 (as much penetration as a 9mm pistol).

Now, one should probably give significant armor multipliers to such blows – at least (0.5) if not (0.33) for fists and such – but at least the upper end didn’t have you swinging for enough penetration to make a 10mm bullet look like a poor trade.

Of course, that’s realism. As I was discussing this sort of thing tangentially with +Christopher R. Rice as I made a Captain America-type superhero at nearly 900 points – the issue with punching folks for a living isn’t that hitting them is more effective than guns. It’s that, in a world of guns, you usually can’t survive closing to fisticuff distance. From that perspective, both bows and fists/feet need the damage boost to make up for the fact that they just suck compared to ye olde .40 S&W. That’s an explicitly genre-balance argument, not a realism one, but nonetheless, the terrain is clear.

Let’s all eat Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

What I did not do, and probably should have, is combine the two concepts. Ideally, this would give the increased resolution from doubling HP, the matching of ST and body mass for cubic ST and the cubic base of HP. We’ll need to tweak to get the damage scaling, but that’s tractable.

So, here we go. The Big Chart.

This one is scaled in HP, with the assumption that ST = HP, since my original thought was that you’re basically buying body mass, and then can tweak your ST by up to +4 on the upper end, Why that? We’ll get there.

So let’s look at the table for a bit. The green band is the starting HP for GURPS with no adjustment to how HP are calculated from body mass other than doubling. That is, take the cube root of weight (so 125 lbs –> 5) and multiply by 4. Unliving/Machine and Homogenous/Diffuse (p. B557) would thus be x8 and x16 times the cube root of object weight.

The shift to cubic ST means that (as you can see from the table) the 6xBL threshold and the actual object weight scale well, so a ST 50/HP 50 critter should move in the same manner as a ST 5/HP5 creature. That makes it easier to pick ST and HP values for oddball monsters, I think.

This probably means we can use the Size and Speed/Range Table for a comparison of muscle power to mass (ST to HP) and get pretty good “you can launch that object so far” values, which would make it relatively easy to accommodate ST in the jumping formula, as well as velocities and damages for thrown objects and weapons. Good stuff, and rationalizing all of that in one rule is worthwhile.

Anyway, the green band is the same default basis as the current rules, except HP are doubled. Basic Lift is left at 20 lbs.

Now, when looking at the upper end of the scale, what used to be ST 20 (and Basic Lift of 80 lbs), the scaling change means that that value falls to ST 32 on the new scale,with a Basic Lift of 82 lbs.

This means that unlike the range of 10-16 we got with just Cubic ST with no change in HP, players can easily make finer resolution distinctions in ST scores within the normal range. Given that 6-8xBL is probably a good proxy for world-record bench presses, anywhere from ST 34 to ST 36 represents a human maximum. I’ve previously pegged squats as around 1.5x that value, so 9-10xBL works there, and again, dead-lift and squat of around 800-1,000 lbs tags well there. On the “low” end, it’s not crazy-town to have a 160-lb person pressing 240-lbs, so having HP 22 (166 lbs) be as strong as ST 26 (6xBL of 265 lbs) doesn’t strain credibility.
What about bows? Using the Deadly Spring’s pegging of maximum bow draw as about 2.5xBL, and allowing an extra +4 to ST with leveled Strongbow perks and perhaps another +4 for Arm ST with Special Exercises, our HP 22/ST 22 person could wind up with ST 30 for the purposes of drawing a bow – that would be a 68-lb. basic lift, or a draw weight of 170 lbs. That’s a proper adventuring-strength bow! It’s also on the upper end of the Mary Rose reconstructions, which hit as much as about 185#. Mark Stretton, one of the more famous heavyweight longbow guys (but not the only one) masses a lot more than 165 lbs., and he pulls a 200# bow (he may pull more; I’ve seen the video of the 200# one). I’ve seen a much more svelte guy draw back a 170# bow and make it look easy, so I’m not scared of the results here.

Whither Damage?

The big question here is what happens to damage? Well, with the forces in pounds, energy for penetration should probably go as the square root of basic lift. That will scale it on the same trajectory as firearms, with is one of the goals of such projects.

Where do we put 1d, though? I don’t have much of a problem with old ST 14 (with 39 lbs basic lift) having a 1d thrust score. If we assume that stays constant with a BL of 39, that means 1d thrust happens for us at ST 25. If swing gives about double the force of thrust, that’s about 40% more damage.

That’s about +3 per 2d (which is messy), but a +1 or +2 per die is less so. Let’s give it +2 per die, which is still about a 40% reduction in both the absolute value of damage as well as cutting down the scaling quite a bit. So: ST 25 is 1d thrust and 1d+2 swing. Note that if you give thrusts with an appropriately-constructed weapon an AD of (2), this results in the thrust being better able to penetrate armor than the swing.

What about default and maximum ST?

ST 20, our new default, clocks in at 2.5 points of damage, which is exactly 1d-1. That’s actually a one-point boost over ST 10 using the table on p. B16. For swing, it should be about 3.9 points, which is between 1d and 1d+1, so the “2 per die” thing is a bit generous, but not horrible, giving 1d-1 for thrust and 1d+1 for swing.

At the upper end with ST 32, scaling as the square root of Basic Lift, we get 5 points of thrust penetration and about 7.9 points for swing. That’s between 1d+2 and 2d-2 for thrust, and about 2d+1 for swing, which means the 1d+1 would be a better fit for thrust.

That very much reduces the range of damage between average and what’s considered the normal human maximum. That’s going to make things cheaper, since the highest proportion of the cost of ST is Striking ST.

Cost Breakdown

ST is one of the only attributes to break neatly and easily into its component costs. GURPS values striking at 5 pts per level, lifting at 3 points per level, and HP at 2 points each. That means you pay about 10 points per point of thrust damage.
Applying similar scaling to this new scheme, we get:
  • HP are straight-forwardly 1 point per HP. Going from ST 20 to ST 32 should be 12 points.
  • Striking ST thrust damage goes from 2.5 points to 5 points in the new scaling. That should be 25 points if the cost per point of damage stays the same. We’ll assume that it does, since one of the purposes of the re-scale is to lower the ability to deal penetration.
  • Finally, the move from Basic Lift 20 lbs to Basic Lift 80 lbs costs 30 points in the current rules. We can make that same move in Basic Lift cost the same amount. So Lifting ST 20 to Lifting ST 32 costs 30 points.
Total it up, and going from ST/HP 20 to ST/HP 32 should be 12+25+30 = 67 points for 12 ST/HP. We’ll call it 5 points per level, which pleases pentaphilia as well as acknowledging that damage especially isn’t worth what it used to be.

The breakdown is 1 point per HP, 2 points per point of Striking ST, and 2 points per point of Lifting ST. That again works: Lifting goes up faster than it used to so it’s worth more; damage is less valuable because it scales slower and flatter, so it’s worth less.

What about new ST/HP 100? That’s going from ST 20 to ST 100, or +80ST, which will cost 400 points. You’re lifting more than a ton with Basic Lift alone, but your damage is only about 8d thrust, and 8d+16–> 12d+2 swing.

Parting Shot

A lot of the games in which I play lower the cost of ST anyway. 5 points/level or even 7 points/level seems like a common value. The trade-up with the higher resolution but increased scaling for lift provides a bunch of small steps with which to differentiate between characters by virtue of physical power.

The real benefit here, to my mind, is the unification of ST and HP values so that they’re explicitly tied to mass and movement capability. When you can say “if your ST and HP match, you’ll move like a human in terms of acceleration, jumping, climbing, etc.”

There will be things that go wrong, of course. The wound thresholds for when one makes death checks might need adjustment – perhaps halving them on the negative end, or just using the usual breakpoints from the Size and Speed/Range Table.

So instead of every -1xHP something bad happens for your life, it might happen at -HP, -1.5HP, -2xHP, -3xHP, -5xHP. Auto-death would thus be at -3xHP, and unrecoverable mess at -5xHP. Note due to doubling that’s about where they used to be.

Characters will be able to take a lot more gunshots to the torso before expiring. One shot to the generic torso with a 5d rifle will leave you reeling but not in danger of KO or death if you have more than 18 HP. One shot with a generic 7d rifle will threaten an average person, but 25 HP and higher (more than about 240 lbs body weight) and you can take one shot.

To the vitals, those hits turn into 51 HP and 75 HP (more or less) respectively, putting Joe Average to -30 (-1.5xHP) and -55 (more than -2xHP but not -3xHP) respectively. So you’re looking at death checks there.

For pistols, the usual 10 HP  per shot (2d–>7 pts x 1.5 for pi+, or 9pts for 2d+2 pi) means that to the torso, you can soak up two shots and still be reeling but in no danger of immediate loss of consciousness. To the vitals, again, we wind up with about 30 HP per hit, so a shot to the Vitals puts you at one death check. So shot placement matters more in this system, which is to the good.

It’s cheaper to get to maximum Basic Lift for regular humans of 80 lbs. That’s 12 points of additional ST, for 60 points, instead of the 100 pts it costs under RAW. Again, that’s not tragic.

Tying HP and ST more closely together is a thing for me, so that doesn’t bother me. Lacking GM permission or superheroic genre, the “you may increase ST to as much as 4 points higher than your mass-based HP” means you need to be about 350-lbs to hit 80-lbs basic lift, which means you’re probably capable of pressing nearly 500lbs with arms alone, and dead-lifting or moving with your back something like 800-900 lbs. Having the mass of a heavy athlete in order to do feats of strength that heavy athletes do? Win – for me.

An equivalence of HP and weight would make a lot of in-game calculations easier, since you could look at strength-to-weight ratios easily by looking at shifts on the size and speed/range table – it’s logarithmic in nature, so looking at differences in the modifiers on the table means you’re doing ratios. Again, this unifies and simplifies the normally complex.

The down side here is that the ability to do penetration-based damage, with thrust or swing, has been utterly and totally nerfed. If a plate harness has just gone to DR 12 where it used to be DR 6, you’re totally immune to blows of less than 2d. For some, this is the reason for doing all this. For others, such as anyone playing Dungeon Fantasy, it may well be a “and that’s why I’m not ever going to do this. Nope.” death-knell.

Oh, and a word about bows and arrows. The switch to damage as sqrt(lifting) probably means that calculations using The Deadly Spring can be based right off of ST. The ST 16 yew longbow (128 lbs draw) does 1d+1 “realistic” damage. That requires a Basic Lift of 51 lbs, which is ST 28 on the new, revised scale. Thrust damage there is 4.1 points, or between 1d and 1d+1. Cinematic damage for this bow was 1d+3. So if a longbow did thr+1 in a realistic campaign or thr+3 in a cinematic one, that would probably simplify things quite a bit.

Crossbows? Heh. The medieval crossbow from The Deadly Spring requires a Basic Lift of 90-95 lbs to span by hand. That’s ST 33 in the new system, for thrust of 1d+2. However, the actual damage of this crossbow is 1d-1, because even though it’s got a draw strength of 740 pounds, the efficiency with which it launches the bolt is low. So crossbows do thr-3 (2) imp damage on the realistic scale, and thr-1 (2) imp for a cinematic one. That two-point differential seems to hold for both types of launcher.

So for bows, you no longer need math – just the table and a ST lookup – to get either realistic or cinematic bow penetration. Injury – which can be quite severe – will be taken care of with the stacking of x2 for imp with x3 for vitals – an arrow to the heart for 1d+1 is no joke, turning into 6d+6 injury, for 27 HP on the average, enough to force KO checks immediately and depending on how harsh one is for bleeding, death by blood loss soon after.

Again – I’m sure there are issue here, but by math alone, it’s not fatally flawed. I’d definitely be interested in seeing this in play for a few sessions.

I have no idea why I did this. But I was thinking, probably because of my comments in my firearms-related Violent Resolution column.

But  . . . I wondered to myself if there was a way to turn some sort of real-world number into D&D damage output.

I know, I know. Why would I ever do such a thing? I had noted (complained, really) that a 9mm was 2d6, and the mighty .50BMG was but 2d12.

So . . . I whipped out solver, and it turns out if you use the energy of the bullet, and only the energy of the bullet, if you use 4 * Log (Base 5) Energy you get a number that might just equate to the maximum damage you can roll on the dice. It compresses the scale even further than the usual result, but it’s not insane.


Cartridge Name D&D Damage? Roughly
.22LR 12 2d6
.380 ACP 13 2d6+1
4.6x30mm PDW 15 2d6+3
.45 ACP 15 2d6+3
5.7x28mm 16 2d8
.40S&W 16 2d8
124gr 9x19mm 16 2d8
.45GAP 16 2d8
180gr 10mm Auto 16 2d8
5.45x39mm 18 2d8+2
240gr .44M 18 2d8+2
.50 AE 19 2d8+3
M855 5.56x45mm 19 2d8+3
7.62x39mm 19 2d8+3
6.8x43mm SPC 19 2d8+3
12 Gauge Shotgun Slug 20 2d10
150gr NATO 7.62x51mm 20 2d10
.500 S&W 20 2d10
.30-06 21 2d10+1
.300 Win Mag 21 2d10+1
.338 Lapua Magnum 22 2d10+2
.50 BMG 24 2d12
14.5x114mm KPV 26 2d12+2
120mm M829-A1 39 6d6+3
16″ Naval gun 49 8d6+1
A shortbow or longbow with a good DEX will get you 1d6+4 or 1d8+4, which are 10 and 12 max damage . . .basically a longbow has the same max as a 2d6, which energetically works out fairly well, since powerful bows deliver on the order of 100-200J. So that’s not crazy-town.
Now, this is totally based on energy, and that means the big, slow bullets are worse than small fast ones. Fine – acknowledged it’s not perfect, but it’s a scale that actually fits reasonably well with d20 Modern and can be extrapolated to other weapons.

Show the Work

How did I do it?

I tried to make a .22LR 8 points (2d4), a 9mm 12 points (2d6), and a .50BMG 24 points. I used a formula to set a quantity of D = A * logB(Energy). I squared the difference and normalized it to the target squared . . . so (D-T)^2 / T^2. I also weighted the results, so the .22LR got 1000x the figured sum, the 9mm got 4000x, and the BMG got 9000x. That was to force Solver (in Excel) to give more weight to making the .50BMG 2d12 or 24 points. The energies I used were 130J for the .22LR, 585J for the 9mm, and 14,700 for the .50BMG, which assumes a man-portable 32″ barrel instead of the 43″ bbl on the machinegun (which is about 16,000J).

Solver gave an exact figure of A = 3.88 and B of 5.1. But setting A=4 and B= 5 is actually better at fitting the BMG, and puts the .22LR at the 2d6 value above. Given the energy involved, that’s probably as good as the d20 modern values.

When converting max damage to dice, I always use the largest dice I can, but don’t allow subtraction. So 19 points isn’t 2d10-1, but rather 2d8+3. That’s a quirk of mine. You can certainly convert any way you like, and 39 points could be 4d8+5, 4d10-1, or 3d12+3 easily enough. Heck, have at it and make it 9d4+3, and the 16″ Naval Gun 12d4+1 to keep the minimum damage high.

Note that the Naval Gun is just the kinetic energy. I haven’t yet figured out how to rate the explosion of 150 lbs. of high explosive inside about 2,000lbs of metal.

Bah! The Damages are Too High!

A comment on G+ noted that 3e humans only have 4 HP, which is a fair point. If you wanted purposefully lower numbers, then here are some nudges/hacks, as well as my line of thought.

I based them off of d20 Modern’s list, where a 9mm was 2d6 and a .50BMG was 2d12. The math forced the 9mm to 2d8 and put the .22LR, which I tried to make about 2d4, into 2d6.

In 5e, at least, a 1st level fighter is going to start with at least 10 HP, and you get a DEX bonus to the 1d6 or 1d8 base damage of a short or longbow, respectively. So from that perspective, 2d6 (ish) or 2d8 for a pistol is the equivalent, on the average of 1d6+3.5 and 1d8+4.5 for damage, neither of which is out of line for d20 Modern or 5e, at least.

If you lower the values to make them work for low level characters, you have the opposite problem – a high level fighter can shrug off a burst of .50BMG unless you invoke the harshest of harsh wounds rule where if you take more HP than your CON, you save or die (that’s a suggested threshold – the harshest one – from the d20 Modern SRD).

If you force the .22LR down closer to a shortbow, the formula becomes something like 2*log(base4) Energy. That makes a .22LR 1d6+1, a 9mm about 1d8+1, a 5.56mm 1d10+1, 7.62mmNATO 1d12, and a .50BMG 1d12+2.

This gives fewer categories of damage

  • 1d6+1 for .22LR
  • 1d8 for .380 ACP
  • 1d8+1 for PDW rounds and all normal military pistols (.45 ACP, 9mm, 10mm, .40S&W)
  • 1d10 for magnum pistols (.357M, .44M) and lower-powered assault rifles (4.73x33mmCLS, 5.45x39mm)
  • 1d10+1 for standard military assault rifles (5.56, 6.8SPC, 7.62x39mm, 6.5 Grendel)
  • 1d12 for battle rifles and sniper rifles from .308 to .338 Win Mag
  • 1d12+1 for .338 Lapua or .416 Rigby
  • 1d12+2 for .50BMG

Another throwback while I edit 90 minutes of video from my daughter’s musical peformance last weekend and ensure I meet my Violent Resolution commits.

Today’s throwback is a series of posts that deal with the impaling damage type.

The first is from Jan 2013, basically within a month of starting the blog, where I complain about the impaling damage type in GURPS.

The second is a look comparing the impaling and piercing damage types.

Finally, something I’d worked out as part of an article that wound up being an interesting idea, but too fiddly to try and try for publishing. Part of an article that started life as The Cutting Edge, putting wound modifiers and penetration modifiers on an adjustable scale.

I saw a question on the RPG Stack Exchange which got my wheels turning briefly. “Hey,” said a user. “I want to use a particular ability in 3.5, but it requires two slashing weapons, and my guy uses maces. I want a slashing mace!” The question also had a lot of rules-specific questions about some sort of wardancing, but that wasn’t what my focus was, and I’m unqualified to offer advice on that sort of thing anyway.

I put my GURPS hat on for a moment – always a mistake for D&D – and said “but hey, a top-heavy weapon that does slashing damage is a common thing. It’s called an axe.”

I was, of course, immediately downvoted. But still, Pathfinder gives a warhammer 1d8 Bashing damage (Warhammers should probably do piercing – they’re basically military picks, but easy mistake and probably legacy to the game) while battleaxes do 1d8 Slashing damage. Basically, the same weight of blow but different damage type, which is pretty much how GURPS would classify it, and how, within the one-handed martial weapons category, Pathfinder (the only 3.5-style book I have on my shelf) seems to as well.

Flip-flip-flip. Yep. D&D5 has the same similarity. 1d6 slashing for the hand-axe, 1d6 bludgeoning for the light mace; 1d8 bludgeoning for the warhammer, 1d8 slash for the battleaxe. It does have a “war pick” at 1d8 piercing (I’m sure Pathfinder does too), so all the top-heavy variants are covered.

I did suggest a combo weapon as well – mace on one side, axeblade on the other. I even found a decent example.

+Mark Langsdorf has a neat new campaign idea, Mecha Against the Giants, he’s working on.

Go read it, then come back.

Got it? Good.

Anyway, as he and +Peter V. Dell’Orto discuss how to account for a giant’s DR, or basically deal with the issue that to something SM+4 (30′ tall), an M16 shouldn’t probably be much threat.

That reminded me of something I’ve played with playing with in the past, which is making it harder and harder to actually reach the vitals with something before it gets dangerous.

Let’s call it a Vitals Threshold.

Further, let’s assume that it’s about 2 HP, or 1d/2, just to toss out a number.

That might be HP/5, or it might simply be something like the aforementioned 2HP x half the linear scale for your SM. SM+0 is 2yds, so it would simply be 2 HP. SM+4 is  5x that, or 10 HP. The first 10 HP would never get a damage multiplier, for things that aren’t wrapped around brains.

That’s still not that bad. You’re shooting the vitals of a SM+4 target at a net +1 to hit. At 5d, you’re averaging a 17 point damage roll, and with x3 for vitals and no real DR, you’re looking at 10 + 7×3 = 31 points of injury instead of 51. That’s a decent reduction, but it’s still 31 flipping points of injury.

I’m not sure that’s too wrong. The African Elephant clocks in at about 10,000 lbs (5,000 to 14,000), which is about SM+3.2 to about SM+4.5, I’d say, based on mass. And poachers kill those with a 7.62x51mm FAL with too-often frequency.

So maybe it’s still OK. A 7d weapon might do 3d basic injury getting through to the vitals, and then 4dx3 inside the important bits. About 15d injury (50-ish points). I think the other key bit for penetration’s sake is the bullet size modifier. I’d highly endorse taking a pi bullet and scaling it down by SM. So shoot a SM+4 target and your injury might get taken down by 4x.

That starts to look attractive. The SM4 giant would “only” take 2-3 HP from the inbound wound track, and about 3d (10 points) from the vitals wound, for 12-13 HP per shot to the vitals.

You can do it with a whole bunch of shots (and that’s how it’s often done on big creatures) to the vitals, but if you’re just unloading and hoping to get lucky your target will absorb a lot of shots. It also means using (say) a 9mm pistol won’t even reach the vitals on the average.

That’s leaving off the amount of DR that thick hide, fat, or actual armor might bring.

Thursday is GURPS-Day, and you should never bring a knife to a gunfight, and a pistol is a defensive weapon, not an offensive one.

Truisms, of course, but still true nonetheless. As I was washing dishes this morning, I remembered a study, not sure why, about the older 55gr 5.56x45mm M193 cartridges, showing that the jacketed lead rounds actually overpenetrated less in common household structures. Fairly sure I read it at the Box O’ Truth, though other studies have shown similar results. The high energy rifle rounds tend to destroy themselves on hitting just about anything, while pistol rounds tend to keep coherent, if deformed. But a pistol bullet is a squat beast anyway, and you can only deform it so much.

Naturally, my thoughts turned to GURPS, and I thought “what would a sidearm that qualified as an offensive weapon look like?” Stats-wise.

Well, you’re really talking something with a Bulk like a pistol, -2 or so. Accuracy like a rifle or carbine: Acc 4 or Acc 5. And of course the ever-popular damage, and in this case, I think you’d really want about 6d to 8d in GURPS terms, because those give you an ability to drop dead an unarmored foe of HP from 10-12.

But at the Incapacitation Station we also decided that instant death is overkill, and 4d is probably enough to do the job, especially for a low Rcl weapon that might achieve 2-3 hits.

But to really qualify, you want that big damage, and that says Ultra-Tech.What qualifies?

  • The Heavy Laser Pistol (UT, p. 115) gets it done. Acc 6, 4d (2), Rcl 1. That’s TL10. Same thing with the TL11 Rainbow Laser Pistol variants (p. 117).
  • The TL11 and TL12 big brothers of even those, the heavy X-Ray lasers and grasers work too, same reasons, higher armor divisors, staggeringly high range. All Acc 6.
  • The Heavy Blaster pistol works, but is a bit high in bulk, low in Acc.
  • The pulsar pistol (UT, p. 124) is sweet. 6d(3), Acc 5, Bulk -2, Rcl 1. That works. 
  • The TL11^ plasma pistol delivers the goods
  • An odd choice, but effective, seems like the Force Pistol
  • You can’t go wrong with a disintegrator pistol. 36d(infinity) and Acc 6 means not even having to apologize to vapor.

The Ultra-Tech guns in the book aren’t terribly impressive. None of them make the list in any form.

Parting Shot

While you can certainly find a sidearm that is as powerful as a current-day rifle if you look into the futuristic beam weapons in the Ultra-Tech book, you will, of course find even more accurate and powerful weapons in the longarm variety. Still, unless armor is very common, comfortable, and appropriate to the sensibilities of whatever society we’re dealing with, the above weapons will serve well as things that blur the distinction between a defensie weapon (a pistol) and an offensive one (a rifle).

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).

After the discussion on how to kill someone dead in GURPS with firearms (which really does devolve to shoot ’em a lot in places that matter, more or less like real life), a few commenters noted that “dead in one turn” isn’t really where it’s at. +Peter V. Dell’Orto has noted before that dying, in GURPS, is surprisingly hard to do, and really, the point that a fight is won is when the enemy is either incapacitated or cowed, not annihilated.

So, what is that point? Well, it’s a failed HT roll for consciousness, for the first. And that can start to happen as soon as you have zero or fewer HP left (p. B380). Hmm. That’s not a lot, especially since you get a lot of help on your way there.

I’m going to assume a slightly above-average foe of 12 HP instead of Joe Average with 10 HP.

Instant Gratification/Incapacitation

Let’s start with the obvious, and a good follow-up to the death post: what if you get shot in the vitals or skull?

Vitals: This one’s a straight-up x3 injury multiplier, bullet size and other factors notwithstanding. Any projectile that does at least 4 points of basic damage (about 1d or 1d+1) will qualify for a one-shot ticket to a HT roll. 2d+2 gets you there even on a minimum roll . . . and that’s a bog-standard 9mm pistol.

Actually, to a HT roll every second. As shown in my post on The Price of Fitness, though, it can take a while, depending on HT, for this to matter enough for the law of averages to catch up to you. Many GURPS combats might only take five or ten turns to resolve, since there’s so little incentive to chill out for a few seconds. But by and large, foes in the HT 10-12 range (effective; if you’ve got Hard to Subdue, Fit, or Very Fit, you get bonuses here) can expect to drop KO in four or fewer turns. More problematic are the HT 13+ types, since at HT 14 and higher, odds are your foe is up for 10+ turns.

The other piece of goodness here is the Knockdown and Stunning roll at -5 on suffering more than HP/2 injury to your vitals, which for our case is 7HP or more, and that’s 3 HP of basic damage to the vitals. It’s hard to not do that much damage, and this KD&S roll, in the event it’s failed by 5+, still causes unconsciousness lasting at least 15 minutes.

Skull: In addition to the usual nifty multiplier for the skull injury of x4, there’s the added benefit that any blow can trigger a KD&S HT roll, and a major wound renders this roll at -10 to the skull or eye. This is going to challenge even the most hardy (high HT) foes.

The skull’s DR 2 means that to get that major wound, you need to still hit for 1d+1 (again, not hard), and 2d+2 will always do it. 3 HP through the skull’s DR puts you in KO territory, and that’s 1d+2 as well. The fact that nearly any wound to the skull will trigger a major wound HT roll at -10 means that even uber-guy at HT 14 is going to be stunned unless he crits, and will go unconscious about 2/3 of the time (he has to roll 9 or less to avoid being KO’d, and 4 or less to avoid being stunned).

Once he’s stunned, he’ll be up in a jiffy if he’s got high HT, but at least you’ve bought yourself some time, either to Aim at his fallen form, or to shift targets, buying you some respite.

Torso: The most frequently shot-at target because it’s the easiest to hit, and range penalties stack up faster in GURPS than any other type. The thresholds are harder to achieve because of the multipliers:

Major Wound (7 HP or more)
14 hits of basic damage from a pi- projectile (4d average)
7 hits of basic damage from pi (2d)
5 hits of basic damage from pi+ (1d+2 pi+)
4 hits from pi++ (1d+1)

Basically, to force a knockdown and stun check, roll average damage with any field-capable pistol. Heck, even the .380 ACP on p. B278 does 2d pi, and any .40 or .45 will pretty much do you fine, as will any 9x19mm. Avoid .22LR and the .38 caliber stuff – but you knew that.

If you’re firing something with pi-, you’ll need higher velocity, lots of rapid fire, or good aim.

Negative HP to force KO checks (12 HP or more)
24 hits of basic damage from a pi- projectile (7d average)
12 hits of basic damage from pi (3d+2)
8 hits of basic damage from pi+ (2d+1 pi+)
6 hits from pi++ (2d-1 pi++)

A single shot from most 9mm pistols or SMGs won’t get you there. Most .40 or .45 SMGs will, however. Any carbine at decent range will do it, but long range shots with assault rifles (which turn to pi- when the velocity drops below about 600m/s) will not.

That all being said, if you have a problem foe that Just Won’t Go Down from that 1 HT roll per second, well, you’re going to have to shoot him a few times. It’s exactly this sort of situation that makes people invoke Mook rules, where bad guys automatically go down after hitting HP 0.


This will only be a big deal on the scale of minutes, even if using fairly harsh house rules. 15 HP of damage to the vitals (or really, 5 HP, x3 for vitals) is something like a HT roll at -3 every minute. Unlike real life, where blood loss is a real thing that incapacitates people, in GURPS it just ain’t all that.

Fear and Panic

Tactical Shooting is a great book for many reasons, but one of them is that it has some really fun rules for fright checks. If you suffer a hit or even a near miss (miss by 2 or less), the GM can require a fright check from the victim, which might stun him, or at least force him to immediately seek cover. This is something to look for, adding up the appropriate modifiers on p. 34 of that book, and worrying about it if the Will rolls are going to be made at (say) 16 or less. If with all modifiers, the foe’s Will is 17 or higher, I’d only make a roll in special circumstances.

This fear of being shot, or seeing friends and loved ones being injured, is responsible for a lot of the tremendously poor performance under pressure relative to that on the range.

Parting Shot

It’s way, way easier to render someone ineffective in firearm combat than it is to kill ’em out right.

GMs should take note, though, that if they stack up HT, Hard to Subdue, Fit/Very Fit on their bad guys, they only have themselves to blame if their foes stay up like a Horror Movie villain.

There’s a new bullet in town, and naturally things are all atwitter. What would the stats be if you did the new RIP bullets in GURPS?

It’s basically a solid copper bullet, with trochars that are designed to expand (like other hollow-point bullets like the Ranger SXT and other ‘petal’ style ammo). The difference lies in the solid copper construction (likely better penetration at the cost of about a 15% reduction in density) and that the trochars are designed to separate on contact with a fluid medium (flesh or water). This is supposed to increase the wound track.

My thoughts on this, after hitting the link (click the picture above) and watching both videos.

I scoffed at the “buzz saw” thing, then thought some more, and now I think I’m back to scoffing. The RPMs of bullets are quite high. A 1:12 twist at 350 m/s is roughly three spins per meter, or 1000-ish per second, or 60,000 rpm. Actually, that’s fast, but not that fast. Even so, the twist is still only one rotation in twelve INCHES, which means any buzz-saw effect is probably zero.

The best way to model these in GURPS:

* They’re hollow point bullets, maybe barrier blind. Everything else is sub-resolution. If the Facklerites are correct, this will not have sufficient wound trauma deep enough to reliably incapacitate (we’ll wait for real FBI and/or IWBA testing to be complete). If the Courtney-ites are right . . . I’m still not convinced, but maybe. If nothing else, getting shot with anything always sucks.

* More complicated: The fragment projectiles look to be something like 8-10 grains each, about 3mm in diameter and maybe 9mm long. This has, according to my calculator, has a wound channel modifier of somewhere between 0.13 and 0.21. I get about 1d-1 penetration for them, but this is an artifact of my model not being well calibrated for bullets smaller than about 4.5-5mm. Using my shotgun model, I’d probably model this as having an effective RoF on a hit of about 3. On a torso hit, roll 3d, where each 1d is the “did I hit the vitals” check: 1 or 2 hits the vitals with the 1d-1. Misses just get 1d-1 pi- to the torso. That makes the weighted average damage per fragment about 3.33, or about 10 points per hit. Max damage if you get lucky will be three vitals hits at 15 points each, but that’s very improbable. Overall, that’s not bad – typically slightly more effective than a solid 9mm ball, but with a very high upper end.

* I’m pretty well willing to believe that a solid copper pistol bullet of nearly any construction will have improved barrier performance. That’s the point.

My predisposition would be to treat it as 9mm barrier blind hollow point, and leave it at that. The more complicated treatment is probably too complicated and not terribly evidence-based at the moment.