Short post tonight, because I’m in the middle of actually writing a bit on the article on injury and healing, and I don’t want to throw off the Emporer’s groove. 

There’s a pretty fun thread over on the SJG Forums about how to account for the velocity of dodging a bullet – really, why is it a bullet is the same difficulty to dodge as a punch? 

Specifically, here’s the original question:

This was probably discussed to death years ago, but why isn’t it harder to dodge a bullet than a punch? I get that imposing a -19 penalty to dodge a bullet is basically the same as not allowing a dodge and as a result not very fun but surely there ought to be some difference.Just something that’s been bothering me lately since we’ve move from our DF game into a monster hunter one and bullet ballet is becoming a thing.

If you’ve been reading here for a bit, you’ll remember that this had bothered me before. First time it came up with a vengeance was in +Jeromy French‘s space campaign, where it wasn’t just dodging bullets, it was dodging lasers. This was judged by mid-fight as more than a bit silly.  Well, perhaps slightly less silly than first thought.

But really, out of that campaign incident and a few other thoughts along the way, I had occasion to write an article called Dodge This. It was the fifth article I’ve published in Pyr #3, and represents some fairly good rules amalgamation, with many options.

They’ve been fairly well received too.

Why bring this up? I have to somewhere between grit my teeth and smile as the thread in question features the following:

  • Post 2: I point out I wrote this already.
  • Post 3-5: Restate the usual explanations of what it means. I also deal with this explicitly, with math to back it up for those that care, in Dodge This
  • Post 7: Line Editor +Sean Punch drops by and really takes all defenses and puts them into a hierarchy that works very well, being MECE and covering the right bases. Oh, and I also propose an Evasive Movement rule in Dodge This.
  • Post 8-12 comment on how cool post 7 is.
  • Post 14 brings up how critical perception is. Oh, that gets an entire section in Dodge This
  • Post 35: suggests using the Size and Speed/Range table to figure penalties. Which I do in Dodge This
Parting Shot
Yeah, this is a bit of horn-tooting. But really, I did all the work required to get the original poster exactly what was needed. If it wasn’t precisely to taste, it could be changed, of course. But having the original rules explained, the expansion rules explained (Tactical Shooting), evasive movement, gameable ways to figure perception into the mix, and finally a systematic way to both figure out how to detect and avoid/counter incoming ranged attacks of any size and speed, up to and including 300,000,000 m/s (light speed)?
To quote the commercial, “It’s in there.” Pyramid #3/57 is $8 for 25,000 words of GURPSy goodness, every one of which is related to guns in this particular issue. So if you’re having problems similar to the original (and correct! Don’t take any of this as me disagreeing with the premise – after all, I wrote Dodge This because I agreed fully with that premise!) poster in the thread, why don’t you pick it up?
You won’t be disappointed.

Thursday is GURPS-Day, and today Gaming Ballistic welcomes a guest poster, +Jake Bernstein

It’s not often that you get direct feedback from someone using something you’ve written. Mailanka gave it over on the SJG Forums when he decided to use The Last Gasp in a super-detailed samurai campaign, and +Peter V. Dell’Orto has mentioned a few times that he’s using a version of Technical Grappling in his Felltower campaign.

Well, Jake turned this to 11, and is using three of my pieces in his campaign. TG, Dodge This, and a draft of an article that sprung from an old idea I had on making Aim an attack roll.

One thing I’ve learned over time, though, is that there’s zero substitute, when it comes to writing rules, for not just playing them, but having someone else play them without you. Is your writing clear? Are the rules ambiguous, or direct? Do they miss common in-play test cases? Do they hit edge cases too soon, or at all? 

You can answer all of those through thought experiments. But you’ll get the answers wrong. If you play it, you’ll learn something. If you let someone else run it, you’ll learn even more.

The new article hasn’t been published yet, so some of the features have been kept vague, including the title!

Without further ado:

Introduction!

Hello everyone!  A
special thanks to Doug for letting me use Gaming Ballistic for what may amount
to a glorified play report, but since it involves several sets of rules written
by Mr. Cole, I suppose this makes some sense. 
I don’t have a blog, but I post on the SJ Games forums as apoc527.  I also play in Doug’s Alien Menace campaign
as Dr. Samuel McKay, a combat-ready scientist in the tradition of Colonel Sam
Carter from SG-1. 
GURPS Cred

I have been running GURPS 4th Edition since about
December 2011.  My group tends to run in
~4-6 month “rotations” so I can’t take credit for the full time, but I have run
an XCOM/Fallout hybrid post-apoc campaign (TL7-9), a THS campaign, a Banestorm
campaign, and now my current game, a conversion of the Star*Drive Campaign
Setting, which is about TL10^.  I also
played and ran in quite a few GURPS 3rd Edition games, but suffered
some major burnout and left the GURPS scene for quite a few years. 
My Campaign

GURPS Star*Drive: 2525 is my fourth full-length GURPS
campaign.  It’s somewhere in between
gritty cyberpunk-in-space and space opera, uses approximately TL10^ technology,
includes psionics, and has a mostly human-dominated Stellar Ring with some
aliens interspersed.  The campaign theme
is bounty hunting. 
Testing Douglas H.
Cole Rules

Doug would probably be the first to admit that he writes a
lot of rules.  I happen to like most of
his articles, and he was kind enough to include me in the playtest of an
upcoming article about the Aim maneuver. 
Since I certainly don’t want to spoil much about that article, I will
say only this: the new aiming rules are about convergence of the melee and ranged
combat options and about making the Aim action into something other than a
skipped turn. 

I am also using TechnicalGrappling, and Dodge This!.  Fortunately, Star*Drive doesn’t have many
bows, so The Deadly Spring was right
out (for which my group shall be eternally grateful). 

Note: The grunt work on The Deadly Spring is usually on the prep work and design side. It should mostly not impact play much. 

The Fight

On Monday, July 7, I ran the PCs in this Star*Drive game
through their first major battle.  The
PCs are an odd group, consisting of a rugged human rifleman and tactician
(Aidan Kane), an ex-Voidcorp sesheyan assassin (Gargoyle), a fraal
psi-scout/tracker (Sinon), a Thuldan gengineered Chronos-class commando
(Seamus), a Starmech pilot/tech (Blake) and an ex-Concord combat medic
(Benton).  They were arrayed against a
human soldier (Rackham), a human telekinetic grappler (Shenna), a weren brute
(Gorblog), and a twitchy t’sa pilot (Yelk). 
Additionally, the fight included three bounty hunter NPCs, a group of
Solar “space cowboys:” Thaddeus Burns, Liam Walker, and Mese Smorra, all human
males. 

Quite the array of bad guys, good guys, and who knows. This will be an interesting test case. Far enough from the “mostly human norm” the articles are written for to stretch the concepts but not so far that anything should really break. The TL10 technology plus the aim and dodge rules might prove interesting – TL10 has some, well, badass technology in it.

At the start of the fight, the PCs thought the bad guys were the space cowboys, who they understood to
be bounty hunters who didn’t exactly follow the “code.”  The actual bad guys were a group of
mercenaries hired to extract the very person the PCs were trying to
capture.  A battle was inevitable.  If you a picture a small airport terminal
with three landing pads and associated jetways, you have an idea of where the
PCs were.  Now, convert that airport
terminal to a spaceport, stick it on a hostile world with a toxic atmosphere
and make the jetways into airlocked passages, and it’s even closer to what the
PCs faced.  Skipping quite a few details,
the PCs went into the terminal area looking for three space cowboys they were
convinced were about to ambush them in order to steal the bounty.  Coming out of their own airlocked jetway, the
group of mercs (Rackham, Shenna, Gorblog, and Yelk) appeared, still acting as
“fellow bounty hunters” and asked if the PCs needed help dealing the
“treacherous space cowboys.”  Oh, and
they were in full combat gear…nothing too
suspicious about that! 
After exploring around the area and failing to locate the
space cowboys, Sinon decided to use his Seekersense psi power to locate
them.  Turns out they were in the
ceiling.  The PCs didn’t have long to
ponder this fact, however, as the mercs chose that moment to attack!  The very first hostile act involved Gorblog
using a hyperdense weren chuurchkna (basically a dueling halberd) to chop off
one of Sinon’s legs.  The fraal dropped,
started bleeding, but remained conscious. 
Yelk, the dual laser pistol wielding t’sa, fired at Gargoyle, unaimed,
and scored 2 hits out of 6, after some Aerobatic dodging (yes, he was flying
inside the terminal).  Gargoyle is
massively cybered up (21 hp from a base ST of 9), and so kept going.  He readied his laser rifle for a counter
attack…
Meanwhile, Rackham tossed a prepared plasma grenade at
Blake’s feet, and Shenna used a nasty custom technique she calls “The
Nutcracker” to crush Aidan’s “vital organs” (modeled as a TK Crush technique
similar to Brain Squeeze but targeting the vulnerable bits of males).  I ruled the PCs were surprised, but given
that many had Combat Reflexes, most snapped out of it pretty quickly and got
into the fight.  I should note at this
point that this was my first GURPS combat GMed since late last year and was my
first TL7+ combat since approximately Summer 2013.  So, things didn’t go 100% smoothly, and
thinking back, I think I allowed the PCs a round of actions they probably
shouldn’t have gotten.  Ah well!

Here’s where we get to Doug’s rules!  Aidan’s turn came up and he has Extra Attack
from cyberware.  In the new rules, the Aim maneuver is eliminated and replaced with
a series of Aim “attacks” that follow the same All-Out, Committed, Normal
progression that melee attacks do.  Using
his Extra Attack for a basic Aim action, Aidan was able to, in one second, aim
his very large, very powerful rifle at Yelk, who was positioned a rather
suboptimal 6 yards away with no cover, and squeeze off a 5-round burst of 11mm
ETC rifle death at his Skull.  Aidan’s adjusted skill was something in the
20s and he hit with about 3 bullets, resulting in the immediate, irretrievable,
and rather messy end of one Lo’kra Yelk. 
Score one for the new rules!

Since Aidan apparently had brass balls and shrugged off her
attack (he has a high Will and some anti-psi), she shifted her attention to the
flying sesheyan (see here)
and used her TK Grab and Wrestling skill to grapple him…Technically!  After, frankly,
a fair amount of confusion (I had never used TG before, nor had my players), we realized that we were dealing
with an invisible attacker (-4 dodge) and since Gargoyle had no idea what was
coming, I didn’t let him use any other defense against her ranged, telekinetic
grapple to his right arm.  Needless to
say, he failed his Dodge roll and suffered all of 1 CP to that arm.  Her goal was to put him in an Arm Lock, which
I read as immediately “disabling” his use of that arm.  

True enough, a locked limb can’t be used for any other purpose, with a side order of dear God, that hurts.

In retrospect, she never actually made an Arm
Lock check, as I attempted to have her grapple him again to increase her CP
total.  It was also, therefore, my
mistake that I didn’t allow him to shoot anyone—the 1 CP shouldn’t have
impaired him much at all, but I ruled at the moment that his arm was held and
he couldn’t use it to fire his rifle. 

Grabbing limbs is an admittedly weird test case for grappling. A 1CP grapple isn’t much, and doesn’t interfere with much (no ST or DX penalty from such a poor grip). It doesn’t take much to throw off an Aim maneuver, though – so not allowing certain things is within the scope of GM judgement. The rules on Concentrate had this in mind, though.

 C’est la vie!  Anyway, the rest of
that portion of the fight went like this: Gargoyle tried to Break Free, but
Shenna “TK Grab-Wrestle parried” and Gargoyle couldn’t generate any CP to break
her grip.  She attempted to improve her
TK Grab-Wrestle grip, but this time I ruled that Gargoyle could “feel it” and
try a Parry with his own grappling skill, which was successful. 

Totally legit. “Hands-free” Parry would have worked here, and the rules about being able to defend from attacks from the rear arc while grappling are all about feeling your foe, as well.

 He then got sick of this exchange and flew
out of her line of sight, which is a situation not covered all that extensively
in TG.  I ruled that this broke her TK Grab grip and
by this time, she ended up with a back full of flechettes from one of the space
cowboys who dropped from the ceiling and turned out to be rather more honorable
than the PCs thought. 

How many CP does it take to hold your foe in the air? That’s a good question. Probably something like “use your mass-based HP as a guide.” So if you have a 175-lb person in your grip, you probably need something like 11 CP to hoist them by main strength if they’re unwilling. That seems like a lot, though, so this might need some refining. 

So, that was the TG action…not
a whole lot this time, but it sure was interesting using it in the context of
TK Grab and flying targets!  I look
forward to getting more comfortable with the rules and having some more
standard fights where the grapplers are, y’know, actually touching one
another! 
Back to the rest of the battle and the alternate aiming rules.  The ability
to Aim and Shoot in one second ended up being decisive.  While Blake was stunned long enough to eat a
plasma grenade at 1 yard and get taken out of the fight, Aidan more than made
up for his loss.  

Benton never even
engaged, choosing instead to drag the badly burned Blake behind cover and start
spraying him with something to ease the pain (Blake took 33 burn damage, and
after armor, resulted in over 20 injury—ouch). 
Seamus and Gorblog engaged in their own little melee dual, with
hyperdense traditional weren halberd vs. monosword.  The details of that fight aren’t that
important, as Gorblog eventually got shot in the back of the head by Sinon, who
took the simple expedient of pointing his rifle at Gorblog’s skull and going
full auto at close range (he didn’t bother Aiming) and getting a lucky
roll. 

Shenna was more difficult, thanks to cover and her DR 20 PK
Shield.  Aidan used his Extra Attack to
good effect, Aiming at her and firing in the same turn.  Two of his rounds, aimed at her skull, hit, but both were stopped by a
combination of her PK Shield and DR 26 combat helmet.  Aidan then used Quick Reload to swap to APHC
rounds…Sinon dragged himself a yard back and propped himself up to Aim at
Shenna using a normal Aim action (frankly, the player here wasn’t yet used to
the new Aiming options and just chose one he already knew).  His Aim roll succeeded and on his next turn,
he let loose a long burst (15 rounds), but only hit with a few, all of which
thudded uselessly against a combination of her PK Shield, the wall, and her DR
18 nanoweave suit.   

It’s weird how binary this can be. You either splatter your target over the landscape, or go ping!

Rackham eventually got his own rifle ready, but lacking
Extra Attack, didn’t bother Aiming and fired at where Aidan had taken cover
behind a thin wall.  The -6 penalty for being
unable to see your target caused Rackham to barely miss, and Aidan was alerted
to possible danger when a dozen rounds burst through the wall right above
him.  Aidan poked himself around the
corner, made a successful Aim roll thanks to a timely use of Luck (another
important concept from the new rules)
and hit Rackham once… in the skull…with an APHC round doing 5dx2(2) pi.  Rackham took about 60 injury and fell over
and died 90 seconds later due to excessive cranial bleeding.

Only aiming when it is super-safe to do so is what happens in real life. I consider this bit of player judgment a win.

The other space cowboy threats-turned-allies all dropped
from the ceiling and helped to varying degrees. 
They didn’t aim either, but scored hits against Gorblog and Shenna,
which were damaging, but not decisively so due to some pretty heavy body
armor.  All this time, I was enforcing Dodge This! Perception rolls before
anyone was allowed a Dodge roll.  Shenna
failed to see the guy behind her, and he filled her back with an automatic
shotgun firing high tech flechettes.  She
ended up living and the PCs healed her and turned her into the authorities
later on. 
So, that was the whole fight.  It took about 3 hours of face-to-face gaming,
but we spent quite a bit of time trying to remember the basic combat rules and
then adding in Doug’s various concepts. 
I think the next battle will go faster and it should just get easier
from there. 

Jake’s Parting Shot

My takeaways are that the new rules on aiming have some really great concepts that I think a lot of folks will like—it
creates options for ranged attackers that make ranged fights more interesting
than the Aim-Attack-Aim-Attack cadence of the Basic Set.  However, allowing Extra Attack to include
Aiming was really powerful—I think it
makes sense, but just realize that this will create extremely fast, extremely
accurate, and therefore extremely lethal
fire from anyone gifted with this Trait.  


Dodge This! was fairly easy to
use in actual play, as there’s basically zero bookkeeping—it is, however, an
extra step to remember to make a Perception roll before allowing a Dodge
roll.  

Finally, Technical Grappling is something that will take some getting used
to.  You replace the semi-intuitive
“Quick Contest” mechanics from the Basic Set with a more consistent, but not necessarily “intuitive” Attack-Defend-Control
Point “Damage” paradigm.  It feels odd,
at first, to think of grappling as a series of attacks and parries, but I think
once we get used to it, it will make a lot of sense—besides, having the very
first example of TG usage involve a
flying target being grappled by TK Grab probably didn’t help our understanding
much! 

I’ll probably write another guest blog post (though
hopefully a shorter one!) when I get some more actual play experience with all
of these rules.  If you got this far,
thanks for reading! 

This is in response to a quite interesting thread on Reverse Missiles. Like many things that occur at the intersection of magic and technology of any sort, there can be many answers depending on the metaphysics of how it is all supposed to work.

Reverse Missiles 101


The key bits are

  • There is one hit roll – whatever you roll to hit your foe, you roll to hit yourself instead
  • The “game effect” is that of a bounced shot, bounced “straight back,” in fact.

Hit Roll

In a way, this is the easiest. Make the calculations to hit your foe, and like the old “I’m rubber you’re glue” game, whatever you shoot comes back to you.

The game mechanics are straight-forward. Roll to hit, and if you succeed, you have potentially hit yourself. More on implicatinos later.

Bounce Back


This is where the trouble might start. The projectile or spell energy flies from the shooter to the target, and bounces back. This innocuous statement can carry some implications that might make things more complicated.

Mechanics vs. Metaphysics


This is one of those things where you really need to decide what’s going on, and then make the rules interpretations loudly and publicly. 

It can’t be a true bounce or reflection – the trajectory would be all wrong. So there’s a magic adjustment that happens to direct i on its way.  Cool enough.

What about range? Is there a magical energy boost that restores velocity? So that the projectile hits with whatever energy it would have? GM call, but I think the answer is “yes.” It simplifies the mechanics, and as long as you’re adding energy to redirect a projectile, you might as well get back up to launch velocity too.

Hit location? Easy – whatever your intent for the target happens to you.

Basically, the game mechanics are designed to allow the GM to act like Nelson when you attack your target. It basically says “don’t give the player a clue that he’s firing into a magical field of “stop hitting yourself!”

Duck!


So that takes care of the hitting. What about active defenses? 

Seems fair to say that if you were allowed an active defense based on your actions on your turn (maneuver selection), you’d be allowed one if you’re attacking yourself.

But there’s a trick. Certainly, you may usually dodge or block ranged attacks (and with a one-handed weapon, it’s possible to have a shield-and-pistol thing going on), and with Parry Missile Weapons, you might be able to break that one out. So what’s the trick?

Awareness is key


As always, the caveat to any sort of active defense is spelled out in the Basic Set,  specifically on p. B374:

You also get no active defense if you’re unaware of the attack. Examples of situations in which no active defense is possible include a stab in the back from a “friend,” a surprise sniper’s shot, and a totally unexpected booby trap.

The reverse missiles spell would seem to qualify in many cases for the “unexpected booby trap” codecil. If the attacker is unaware that magic even exists, then he’s going to be unprepared to react against it.

In a way, this is why the “Aimed and Sighted shooting is an All-Out Attack” rule from GURPS Tactical Shooting is annoying (to the players) but important. It tells all involved that you are not expecting counterfire.

So, if you are aware that such magic exists, and you take an option that allows an active defense, then you get to use yours. I’ve had this conversation at least once with +Sean Punch and for a long while we made a joke about it in GURPS Technical Grappling, that taking “Attack” instead of All-Out or Committed Attack assumes that the fighter believes that the referee or the fans of a sporting event might pull out MP5s and suddenly start shooting into the ring. I included the One Foe option in Technical Grappling for that exact reason.

I don’t like that plan


One tends to assume that if you’re shooting or loosing an arrow at a foe, you’re not expecting it to come back at you. And if you are shooting, then you’re not doing the kind of evasive maneuvering that grants you a dodge.

To that i say: yes you are. If you didn’t take Committed or All-Out Attack, you are doing that kind of movement. That’s what such options are designed to preclude.

If, however, that just bugs you, well, there’s a handy article (Dodge This, from Pyramid #3/57: Gunplay) that spends four pages giving you options, including painful modifiers to see a projectile coming so that you can dodge, parry, or block it.

Parting Shot

So, ultimately the answer to the question of “can you Dodge reverse missiles” is probably simply “yes.” If you didn’t choose a maneuver that precludes a defense, and if you are aware at all that such a spell exists, you are presumed to be ready for such.

If you don’t like that plan, there are options, but I think the intent is that you have to spend a “holy crap!” moment dodging, and that the line of fire from your notional victim to yourself is now threatened behind you!

Tonight we rejoined Our Heroes in the ice caves on a far off world. +Tim Shorts couldn’t make it, so we quickly recruited +Jake Bernstein, who joined +Peter V. Dell’Orto+Christopher R. Rice , and +Nathan Joy in the quest to kill the aliens and take their stuff.

The Long Fight


No play-by-play transcript as I usually do when I’m playing, because my mind is on the game and keeping it moving. Or trying to.

The basic play of the night was one long gun battle. We went into XCOM Time, and I thought as a GM that it worked really well. It gave each side time to do what they needed to do, and allowed us to cover a lot of in-game time in five-second chunks, which worked.

We did go back to one-second turns as soon as anyone’s Wait was triggered, so no real loss in fidelity there. Just a decent way of keeping the sides close.

They set up a brutal ambush against an enemy that is coming at them in waves. The NPC Christine Brinkman had been left as a rear guard, and manged to make an awesome Per roll, spotting the SM -4 bad guy drone a long way away. Aim, Brace, Reflex sight, and a very good Aim roll put her on target, and she totally drilled the drone. That left quite a bit of time for the team to get set, and they set up a brutal, and effective, ambush when the remaining drones came around the corner. The first two, I think, bit it hard, and the third was appropriately riddled with holes, but after putting a blaster bolt through Dragonskin armor on Jake’s character’s torso, which is 3d (5) against 10d armor (1d injury per hit). He also got nailed once on each leg, though, and that was more serious. We resolved the crippling injuries (in reality, Jake worked out the details of his own injuries while I continued play) and he’ll be off his game for 3 months!

Ianali was able to sprint over, and accept a -10 to his First Aid roll (plus some rerolls) to get him back up to 1 HP, which kept him out of the “rolling for KO each second” bad place.

After the first wave it, they set up and waited for the next wave. It came cautiously, and the drones staged their own ambush, using some Sectoids as bait. Christopher’s character Ianali tried to take one alive, carefully blowing off one leg (yowch), but then the guy with the grenade launcher opened up on the wall, pulping that guy and rendering the second, hidden next to a wall, unconscious. Three 40mm HE grenades will do a number on a small, unarmored alien worker.

As the good guys came around the corner, though, one of the floaters tagged our grenadier on the torso and arm, which burned through his armor and did some real damage. Three grenades later and two of three floaters (these were much smaller and unarmored than the disc they met coming in to the caves) were damaged but still functional, the third untouched.

Rules, Concepts, and Speed of Play


The new rules we’re using for aiming are working really well.

The “XCOM Time” seems to work

Fantasy Grounds lets you put down and leave range estimating lines on the map, and these are great for “cross this and my Wait triggers!” notations for laying ambushes and whatnot are great.

We’re half-using +Mark Langsdorf‘s rules on rapid fire, though I think maybe we weren’t using them as correctly as I’d like. I think that, in retrospect, the RoF bonuses using the Size and Speed/Range Table might stack up too quickly.

What I wanted was something where 3-4 shots (the usual number in “burst fire” got you your first bonus, but like Mark, I think that the SSR table is core to GURPS and should be used where possible. However, this means that with a gun with RoF 12, you are (with the RoF bonus) +4 to hit, which is just as good as Aiming using RAW with a carbine wit Acc 4. Unsighted firing at RoF 12 is simply NOT as good as aimed fire with the same rifle. So that bears more consideration. Maybe halve the values, rounding up. It will be self-limiting, as most normal rifles will be able to do this for 2 seconds and then a mag change. Peter’s character, with his 100-round drums, is better off.

I used the “always add 10 to Per rolls, but full size and range penalties apply” rule often today, and it works great. It’s how Christine was able to nail the first floater drone, and how one of those drones missed seeing a PC at a critical moment, in a believable way.

Lessons Learned


My map is too big, and I probably have too many enemies for the style of play I want to have for this campaign. This mission was designed to be one session long (notionally), two at the most, and we’ll finish in three. That means we can spend 6-8 weeks of real-world time (allowing for cancelled sessions) on what might be considered one to three firefights.

Fantasy Grounds Woes and Woo-hoos


Some of the teething issues with the interface have gotten better with use. It still does suffer from some issues, though, that make for some frustrations.

  • Clicking on the chat window does not bring it to the top of the screen
  • The absence of Fog of War and sight lines really is an issue to the type of game we’re playing. 
  • Invisible icons are really invisible – even to me – as they’re set to a too-high transparency factor. There needs to be a way to make them indicate being invisible but not quite so hard to see on the map
  • The mouse wheel is still too all-powerful, and scrolling within the combat tracker can cause some of the boxes and values to increment if you’re hovering over them. You really have to be careful of where your cursor is when you’re moving that wheel
  • It would be nice if, as you advanced the combat tracker, the GM map auto-centered on the active icon
  • Every time a player dropped due to a lost connection – and that was less but still present this game – he was able to rejoin but I had to reshare the map each time
  • HT needs to be on the combat tracker (if it’s there I didn’t see it) since you often have to roll that in combat. Same with Per, actually.
Some things that I’d really like
  • There seems to be D&D style 90-degree cones for pointers. I’d like to be able to tune those to arbitrary width. so it’s easier to assess sight lines and aim lines
  • I know it’s a lot, but some of the interface choices remain unintuitive, and could use a re-think
  • The vision lanes that I have in MapTool (blocked out behind) with terrain features that can’t be seen through are awesome and really allow the GM to just play his side without worrying about who’s visible but unseen. 
Parting Shot

I think today went pretty well, and the rules being used are working for the benefit of the game, not a distraction. 
Smaller maps, perhaps fewer but more capable foes (though what’s going on now isn’t bad), and a slightly different capabilty set for my bad guys will help out.
It should be fun to finish up this mission. Of the six troopers that went in, two have been badly wounded by blaster fire, and there are still several drones active. The cave has barely been explored (and I say this because of an accidental full-frontal map reveal in a previous game; they know how big the place is).
I will give serious though to how I can guarantee we finish up next time.

Looks like things are getting more interesting. Geoffrey Fagan made some notes on Social Traits in GURPS, with three more parts on the way (to appear weekly). Also, Roger Bell-West has started a blog of his own, and has penned an article on Rapid Fire and Shotguns in GURPS 4th edition.

Responding to both!

Social Traits Part 1 of 4


Social Traits

No matter how great your PC is on paper, the real secret to “power” gaming is your ability to influence the plot, and to do that, you need to have some traction in the setting. That’s what social traits get you. 

I think this is a nice point made here, in that while combat skills and other typical PC-sheet skills and abilities are an awful lot of fun, your place in society and your ability to use that (or be used by it) is dictated by these social notes.

Part I: Clout
GURPS has 3 traits that address social standing: Rank, Status, and Social Regard/Stigma. If you have any of these traits, you have a “place in society” that defines existing relationships with many other people.

Hmm. I think that there are ways to broaden this out considerably. Reputation can certainly dictate your place in society, or at least boost it (or detract from it, for that matter). Allies and Patrons can likewise count here; knowing that your foe has a Patron in the Guild of Messy Assassination might certainly give one a different appreciation of his place in society.

Furthermore, one big one missing is Wealth. +Sean Punch has elaborated at what Wealth entails thusly:

Wealth is a highly complex, abstract social advantage that encompasses about as much as IQ does, including but not limited to starting money, job qualifications, social connections, credit rating, land, and a hidden economic parallel to Status.

also

Wealth only changes if you specifically invest the required capital – taking it out of play – to buy, bribe, and insure your way to a social position where future changes in fortune won’t alter the respect and credit accorded to you. This is the big difference between somebody who keeps their winnings as liquid assets and uses them for trips, cars, and homes, and somebody who invests their winnings in nonliquid assets that will continue to make them money in the future. The former only requires cash; the latter also calls for points, which represent the work done to build networks.

As such, Wealth is an extremely Social trait and bears considering.

 If you are part of an organization, you have Rank…even if it’s just Rank 0, and even low Rank defines your character, be he a private in the army, journeyman of the Coopers’ Guild. The decision to make a character with Rank will guide your choices with respect to attributes, skills, talents, and other traits, usually including a duty. If you have any rank at all, you can request that the resources of your organization be allocated to your purposes (roll Administration), and the higher your Rank, the more of those resources fall under your direct command.

It would be a good idea to buy and read GURPS: Social Engineering to get the full take on Rank and what it can do. There are mechanics presented (the Assistance Roll) on pp. 51-52 of that book. Further, a guideline for how many people you have under your command (though I disagree in some of the particulars) is also presented on p. 14: The Arithmetic of Rank.

 In addition, Rank provides a reaction modifier within your organization, even for member outside your direct chain of command.

I had to go look this up – I’d need a better citation, but I think this isn’t true. It’s true if Rank replaces Status (the 10 points per level version of Rank), but the thing about Rank is it’s pretty absolute. Someone is either in your chain of command, in which case they obey you or suffer some degree of consequences, or they are not, in which case your Rank (but not your Status!) is mostly irrelevant.

For 5 points, a level of Rank means that up to a dozen people take orders from you; now tell me again how HT is undercosted! For 10 points, Rank 2 comes with a free level of Status. Remember that you pay for Rank you can actually use; if the sergeant really runs the platoon, then his Rank advantage equals what a lieutenant should theoretically have, while his boss only has Courtesy Rank!

The bolded bit isn’t correct, I think, by the rules in the Basic Set, nor its expansion in Social Engineering (p. 13). If you have the authority, regardless if you use it, you have honest-to-Kromm Rank. If you used to have formal authority, and now only get the trappings and courtesy of your former Rank, but cannot actually command obedience (though you may be able to get obedience thorugh successful use of influence skills), you have Courtesy Rank.

A good test: can the people you’re trying to get to do what you want be punished if they don’t obey your orders? You have higher Rank than they do. Can those people be punished for actually obeying your directions? You have Courtesy Rank!

Status attends power, which is why you get some free with Rank and Wealth, but you can be powerful in other ways, perhaps a mighty wizard. The source of power is a separate advantage, but Status represents the perks, which are setting-dependent but should include partial exemption from his society’s Control Rating

Possible, but a setting-driven switch; this may or may not be true in any given campaign.

 and always includes reduced social friction: Higher Status means your character has more time to be productive. He calls on the mayor and walks right in; other folks have to wait, even if they had an appointment. Perhaps it’s less formal, and he gets face time with the mayor on a golf course, which helps explain why Status comes encumbered with a higher Cost of Living. The cost is warranted though, because Status also counts as a Reaction Modifier.

Now, this one is definitely true, though I had to go look it up. Conveniently, it’s under Status as a Reaction Modifier, p. B29.

Exemptions
If the usual laws don’t apply to you, then you have Immunity, Legal Enforcement Power, or Security Clearance. What all of these advantages have in common is that they can be revoked by others, so the PC must exercise good judgment in their utilization, or else produce such good results that his superiors will excuse abuses.
Immunity amounts to easing of social friction (a lot), so if you already have high Status, you shouldn’t have to pay for Immunity separately.

This might or mightn’t be true – the examples listed on p. B65 charge points for Legal Immunity and give the examples of a medieval bard, abbot, or duke – but it’s not RAW. If you can break the law to any extent, you must buy this, by RAW. Status does not give you an exemption to the law (though it might allow you to influence the end game, what you’re doing is still illegal for you).

 Suppose your campaign takes place in Eastland, and your character is the ambassador from Westland. Back in Westland, he’s a high Status individual, so take that as a perk equivalent to Courtesy Rank. Here in Eastland, nobody cares about barbarian honors, but the ambassador still has diplomatic Immunity.

This is a good, but very campaign specific example, and does not define the rules, but applies them with judgement. Now, that’s exactly the GM’s job! But a French Diplomat who also happens to be a high GURPS Status Duke and is currently in England will damn well reap the benefits of both Status (at the full level that includes Rank, likely) and any immunity he gets as an ambassador, probably at the 5 to 10 point level.

Similarly, Security Clearance is one of the benefits of Rank; take the advantage only if you have no Rank, or if your clearance exceeds that nominally associated with your Rank. A good example is the civilian contractor working on a secret weapon; since he has no Military Rank, he needs Security Clearance. Having one is a good way to get in on the action, or to get more intel once the action starts.

I’d probably phrase this as “Security Clearance can be one of the benefits of Rank.” Need to Know applies to even people of high rank, so just because you’re a General doesn’t mean you have instant access to The Dark Phoenix Files or The Manhattan Project. If you want that specifically, you probably have to pay for it.
Parting Shot #1


I found this about 4/5 on the GURPS 101 scale. Most of the advice is quite solid, but there are some rules interpretations here that, while justifiable/understandable, are not strict RAW. They make great house rules, though, and in some places there’s enough leeway in the rule itself that some of these are just points of discussion. No one would blink twice if told “Yeah, you’re a Status 6 nobleman, so no one of lesser status can charge you with a crime.”

The overall point that in genres apart from DF, where “Murder Hobo” is all the Status you need, is still quite applicable: points spend in useful social advantages are points well spent.


Rapid Fire and Shotguns in GURPS 4th edition

The first GURPS 101 article for Roger Bell-West, he tackles automatic fire ably and succinctly. Not much more to add. He doesn’t touch on hit location when using automatic fire, but I don’t think the basic rules for non-spray fire are any different. If your hit roll succeeds (and your foe fails to defend) your bullets go to the location you wanted them to. All the others miss by the basic rules.

Actually, thinking about this for a moment, I just came up with a fun idea. Awesome – a new blog post with actual content!
Over at the SJG Forums, there’s a fairly involved thread about dealing with attacks from behind.

So, with that:

p. B374: An active defense is a deliberate attempt to avoid a particular attack. It’s only possible if the defender is aware of the possibility of an attack from his assailant and is free to react . . . by moving out of the way of the attack (a dodge), deflecting the attack with a weapon or empty hand (a parry), or interposing a shield (a block).

p. B391: Against an attack that comes from your back hex, you cannot defend at all unless you have Peripheral Vision (which lets you defend at -2) or 360° Vision (which lets you defend at no penalty).

p. B391 – Runaround Attacks:  A fast-moving fighter can sometimes start in front of a foe and run behind him to strike from his back hex. Against a true attack from behind, no active defense is possible, because the victim did not know the attack was coming. If the attacker starts in front and runs behind, outmaneuvering his victim through sheer speed, the victim does know he’s being attacked.

Technical Grappling, p. 11 – Rear Arc:  When grappled, you know where your foe is! You defend against his attacks from your rear arc at -2 (as if from the side) if standing, crouching, or kneeling, or at -4 otherwise.

 To me, it’s going to be pretty simple. If your cannot perceive the attack in any way, you may not defend.

In my article Dodge This, from Pyramid #3/57, I spent some time on the Vision part of Perception rolls. I didn’t spend that much time – only a throwaway line – on other senses. Still, one big one is going to be hearing, as many people and critters will growl or give off some warning when they attack. Hearing is more of a 360-degree sense, and if you make a Hearing-2 roll against an invisible foe, you may parry or block at -4 . . . at least from the front. You may dodge at -4 if you’re aware you’re being attacked (again, this doesn’t specify arc, but I’ll assume mostly from the front). This is all covered on p. B394.

The way I read the rules, especially the quickie table on p. B549, is as follows

1. If an attack is from behind (excepting runaround attacks and pre-existing grapples), you don’t get to defend.

2. If an attack is not from behind, you may only defend if you can succeed in some sort of Perception check. Penalties for Vision rolls are given in various places, and Hearing at -2 is a good option even against invisible foes. You still get plugged in the back if the attack starts there, though.

Exceptions


There are always exceptions, and one I might make would be that if you’re being attacked from behind, you might be able to make a Hearing-based Melee or Unarmed Combat Skill roll, penalized, to hear your foe’s footsteps, breath, rustle of clothing or jingle of mail.

The only defense you can make is a Dodge, and you must either Retreat by stepping away from your foe, or if you feel compelled to stay in your own hex, Change Posture to kneeling or lower.

For penalties, I’d make it -2 generically for ‘can’t see attacker,’ -4 if you’re wearing a helmet that covers the ears, -4 if you’re actively fighting someone else, and likely another -4 for rear, rather than side or front arc.

That’s basically Hearing-6 if you’re just standing around, Hearing-10 if you’ve got open ears but are fighting someone in front of you, or have Hard of Hearing because you’ve got a helm on your ears, or a whopping Hearing-14 if all apply. If your Hearing roll drops below 3, you can’t rolll.

Parting Shot


The simple rule, attacks from the rear hex get no defense, is what we use in +Nathan Joy‘s DF game. It’s accepted by all, and we use it to our own advantage as much as the bad guys use it to theirs. The easiest way to deal with a foe in your rear hex is to either (a) have friends who can watch out for your, or (b) turn a bit to expose your peripheral vision to various arcs. But by and large, the reason you just get nailed if an attack comes from your rear hex is that it works in play. 

A lot of the recent article Dodge This was focused on Perception rolls, specifically and most often, Vision rolls.

In GURPS, if the thing you’re looking at is “in plain sight,” then you get a +10 bonus to Vision to see it.

Not in plain sight?

That’s a big bonus . . . sort of. +10 is basically “you can see it fifty times more easily than in a more obstructed field of view.”

Or, another way, you can see a man-sized target as clearly at 100 yards “in plain sight” as you can see at a six-foot distance in somewhat more challenging conditions. More or less “you can see someone at the other end of a football field as easily as you can at the tip of your spear.”

But what does “in plain sight mean?” Can you ever not be in plain sight?

I was thinking about this in two ways. The first was somewhat mechanical (shocked, shocked, I know you all are). Basically, if the line of sight from you to your target, and 10x farther than that is basically unobstructed, he’s in plain sight.

So if you’ve got a quarry 50 yards out, then (to first order), if there’s basically nothing in the way from you to 500 yards in the direction of your target, he’s in plain sight and you can claim that bonus.

Why? Well, I figure that there are two parts to it. One is a line from you to him, but the other is “what’s behind him that might obscure or confuse the viewer?” If the nearest terrain is 10x farther away than the object is, well, that’s probably OK.

That’s probably a sub-optimal solution, though. Math for no gain, etc.

What I’m thinking is the better solution is that when making a Vision roll, just roll vs Vision+10 in all circumstances. Objects are, by default, treated as being “in plain sight.”

Then you can just apply the usual penalties for range (which are darn steep, -10 at 100yds, and -18 at a mile), purposeful and natural camouflage, stealth, and lighting.

Abrams and T-72 (I think)

Note that the “can you see it at one mile” thing isn’t necessarily a bad joke. An M1A2 Abrams tank is about SM+4 or SM+5 (probably +5, since the T-72 is +4 in High-Tech). It can certainly kill you deader than hell at that range without trying that hard. For a normal guy on an open field, that’s Vision+10, +5 for size modifier, and -18 for range. Net of Vision-7, or about one chance in six of spotting it. Camouflage or poor light makes it even less likely. You’re dead before you know he’s even there.

Not that I’m saying it’s unrealistic. It’s probably about right.

But it seems to me that the “in plain sight” modifier is best handled by just giving it all the time.

This is an article-by-article review of Pyramid #3/57: Gunplay. While I don’t usually do this, the subject matter of this issue is just what this blog ordered, and even if one of my own articles is in it, I really think every article, and nearly every word, of this issue is worth reading. So, a series of (hopefully) shortish posts. You can find the installments on Modern Warfighter: Gear here, as well as The Devil’s Chariot, and Brock-Avery Guns.

Reviewing my own work. How terribly narcissistic.

Dodge This ( +Douglas Cole )

This article tries to break down some alternate rules for dodging projectiles of all speeds. It’s organized in three sections, and includes one large box on why rules such as these might not be a good idea for inclusion in the Basic Set, and ends with some tables summarizing some of the suggestions for penalties, modifiers, and die rolls given in the article.

Keen Eyes and Fast Reflexes


Saw that one coming . . .

This section spends about a page on perception rolls. No, really. The basic rules hang a lot on the question of whether or not you are aware of a foe, because tucked right in the definition of Active Defense is the prohibition of using one against an attack you can’t perceive in some way.

The sub-sections includes a bit on GURPS’ default assumptions about perception rolls and awareness, and then provides some suggestions for GMs that want to have a die roll determine whether a foe is currently being tracked. Lots of penalties, arcs of vision, and it touches on Danger Sense and Enhanced Tracking, two Advantages that can help with Perception checks.

All of them end the same way: lacking other options, you can defend against that which you’re aware of. If you’re not, you can’t.

Bob and Weave


A very short section containing an optional rule. If post-hit defending breaks your SoDoM (Sense-of-Disbelief-o-Meter), then you’re given a variant: Move and Attack (Evasive), which allows you to dodge like a funky monkey, giving penalties to be hit, but taking penalties to your own actions as well.

Active Defenses


The last section gives details on using these options with incoming projectiles. First, seeing an incoming ranged threat, notionally from a thrown car (I should have worked that in for supers) or a hurled axe all the way down to rifle bullets. This is basically a determination of the size modifier of the threat, and if you can resolve it, a Perception roll based on size and movement.

From there, you can try and stop it, but a method of penalizing defenses based on projectile speed is given for those who feel that fast attacks should be harder to parry, block, or dodge. The rules are rationalized in the case for using objects or shields as cover, as well as a short discussion of how they work with spells. Also lists the penalty for dodging lasers. For whenever that comes up.

Finally, for those who know and love Tactical Shooting, which also has some harsh rules for the dodging of bullets, a few words are spent on how to mesh this article with those rules.

I’ve got another article in this month’s Pyramid magazine. Called “Dodge This,” it was the result of a long series of discussions between me and +Peter V. Dell’Orto about dodging firearms and bullets. It was somewhat a reaction to my experiences which led me to write The Occasional Silliness of Dodging Lasers, and the follow-up on “Lesser Silliness.”

Peter and I went back and forth quite a bit on structuring the article, and while I did a lot of the number crunching (it’s what I do), Peter is really good about making sure that things work in play. He’s also a big fan of minimizing the number of rolls and contests, so that play is minimally disrupted. So the article, though he basically said “it’s all you” and gave me sole credit, is as much his as mine.

With that, here was a quick summary of the issue that Ken Peters threw down on the GURPS Forums. I need to take the time to go over the entire issue myself and make my own comments. But in the meantime, I leave you with his words:

Modern Warfighter: Gear Slowly but surely you’ll be getting an entire book out of this 🙂 This article covers the non-weapon gear for a modern warfighter that currently doesn’t have an entry in the gear books. It also goes into some detail on military uniforms (I kept this very generic and rules legal) because that’s actually a rather interesting subject all by itself (this is kept very generic and I avoided US-centric absolutes when possible).
More information on body armor that extends Tactical Shooting? Check pp. 8-9 
Need stats for the Switchblade missile/UAV? That’s on p. 13 under Loitering Munition.
Curious about those barricades you see around bases and embassies? On p. 14 they are described under Multi-Cellular Defense Barriers.

What are the stats for modern FROG gear and other infantry uniforms? Check p. 8 easy peasy.

Canine tactical harnesses? See p. 11 my friend. I got it all covered.


The Devil’s ChariotThe very image of badass Russian hardware for decades: The Mi-24 Hind. Han’s left no detail unmentioned in this article, especially for applying this vehicle to a GURPS Actioncampaign.

The article covers the Mi-24V in detail, including information on the electronic warfare systems, what you can attach to the hardpoints, the flight controls, and even the seat layout (no graphics, unfortunately).

The guns obviously get the Han’s level of detail and there NINE new weapons with full stats and background information provided.

Curious as to what was contained on the survival gear of the crew? Did you know it had 20 water-purification tablets? Well now you do, because Hans has listed everything (with High-Tech page references). 


Eidetic Memory: Brock-Avery GunsThe manufacturer may be fictional, but the guns have detailed backgrounds and at least one is listed for every major era of play. The grave gun was particularly interesting and I had to look it up (yes, they really existed). A good example of how to take a theme and apply to something that is usually considered just an appliance.
BTW the mention of Transient Lunar Phenomena was pretty interesting. Need to see if I can get a database of those locations 🙂

Dodge ThisDouglas “Crunch King (in training)” Cole wrote this article to address the common question of “why is it so easy to dodge ranged attacks in GURPS?” After all, even in Rifts you have that -10 to dodge and that’s hardly a paragon of realism!
Well, he breaks it down for you. So complete is the article that I don’t really know what else to say. IF a player ever gripes about the dodge rules, especially the notes from Tactical Shooting, I’ll just print this off and hand it to them without saying a word. Maybe a grunt of command to actually read the entire thing.
What’s also interesting is that he extends the rules for Parry, Block and Dodge to cover all sorts of ranged attacks (and not just thrown weapons) – even spells!

The Nock Volley GunSometimes seen, never really described, this article is about a particularly interesting historical weapon (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nock_gun). That alone isn’t very exciting or novel, but what sells it are the optional rules that really spell out why this thing remains a historical artifact 🙂
I found the rules regarding the insane muzzle blast of this gun to be particularly noteworthy!


Magic BulletsNeed to put a diamond shard in your bullets to hunt that monster? This article has you covered, my friend. Obsidian cored rounds with a wolf tooth enamel coating? It’s just an order away!

This article extends the already voluminous list of “special loads” for bullets as seen in HorrorMonster Hunters, and Pulp Guns.

Random Thought Table: Make Each Shot CountHere Steven discusses using ammo itself as a pacing mechanism instead of just a largely forgotten bit of character sheet accounting. As he notes, many people approach this from a video game perspective where acquiring ammo is something you can do at a dead sprint with daemons spitting blood a footstep behind and you can casually load it even underwater or while on fire.

IMO this is one of the best Random Thought Tables in a long time, and I’m sure there will be a lot of GMs who get their eyes opened to these types of game balancing and plot pacing concepts.

Ballistic’s Report


I had a good time writing my own article. I won’t say that it just fell together, but Peter’s influence made itself felt in an entirely productive way. Not only did knowing I had a prospective co-author mean I buckled down and got my stuff done (I’m better with a deadline), but I sort of had to ask myself WWPD as well as WIWIP (would it work in play) more often than I usually do.

That probably means I asked it just less than I should.


I tend to write as a menu of options, fully endorsing what I feel is a core GURPS concept: “pick the rules you want, toss the rest.” Some of my options you might not like. Great! Ignore them. I write a lot of my rules articles to address issues that I see that bug me, but they might not bug everyone.

That Ken really liked my article is very gratifying, and I think that one of the reasons this article works (and rereading it, I do think it has a lot of goodness to it) is that it directly addresses an issue that, quite seriously, had every single player (including my wife) groaning about how unrealistic it was to just keep dodging laser beams. No amount of “but you’re dodging the line of fire” was going to make up for that.

So I knew there was something there, and the article on MECE applied to attack and defense rolls cinched it up: there were several options that might get it done.

From there, it was a matter of some clarifying discussion with Peter, a first draft, and then my usual suspects did the proofread and comment. I found so much utility in my Technical Grappling playtest that I try and hit up some of them, plus a few others, as often as I can to ensure I don’t miss important bits.

If you haven’t read the article, I’d certainly appreciate it if you would! If you have, I’d love to hear your thoughts – even if you thought it lacking.

I got to play GURPS at TL9 this past Saturday, with +Jeromy French , +kung fu hillbilly , +Alina Cole , +Carl Miller , and +Matt Sutton .

We got into a battle with lasers and slugthrowers. There was an awful lot of successful dodging going on. Some of this just “the dice say what the dice say.” But after a bit, you could tell from the body language (and post-game conversation) that the overall assessment of that was “no frackin’ way.”

GURPS has a fairly realistic outcome level when it comes to gun battles. The real level of hits in combat at ranges spanning a mere 3-10 yards is something like “less than 10-15%.” If you figure GURPS Dodge scores on the order of 6-10, (15-50% chance of a successful dodge), you’re still looking at “attack” level percentages on the order of no more than 30%. That’s 8- or 9- at best net/net, even before dodging.

So at 3-10 yards (-4 down to -1) skill levels are presumably in the 9-13 range (not spec ops, from “joe average or a cop who doesn’t do much range time). Again . . . realistic. Most of these exchages involve considerable fear and andrenaline, and sighted but not aimed shooting. See GURPS Tactical Shooting for how these differ.

Given “on the range” bonuses of something like +6 to +8 for knowing range, not being in any sort of danger, no stake in the outcome, etc, that’s likely looking at range-level accuracy on the order of 15 to 21, plus Acc 3 of the gun. Net raw score is likely 17-24, meaning that on a quiet range shooting once every second or two, you can probably put every shot on the paper (at a raw skill of 9) to being able to eat a -6 penalty to put 90% of all your shots in a 0.2-yd circle: every shot in an 7″ circle.

When I took a range accuracy test in Texas years ago, shots from 3-25 yards were all within 6″ of target. I’ll admit it (Texas rules apply – if you can do it, it ain’t braggin’): I’m a good shot on the range. You might also call much range shooting Guns (Sport) and hit shooters with an additional -3 in real combat situations unless they’ve been on live-fire, shoot/no-shoot, or kill house training.

And yet . . .

Lasers. There’s no recoil to deal with, unless you’re ejecting a chemical cell. If you can put the red X on the target and pull the trigger, they shouldn’t get to dodge. They just take it. Beam spread is certainly not appreciable at the kind of distances we were facing.

So:

DECIDE . . . and quickly

Well, one possible thing to do is steal from T-Bone: use his DECIDE rules where you declare your defenses before you know if a blow hits. That means you have to declare defenses before the to-hit roll is made, or sometimes you can do it retroactively at a penalty (but not for lasers, he clarifies).

There are ways to tweak this, such as if the defender succeeds, you still roll to-hit, fishing for a critical.

You can also do something like this:

Evasive Movement (a sort-of variant on All-Out Defense)

At the beginning of your turn, you may declare you are moving evasively. You’re bobbing and weaving, moving side to side, up and down, etc. You can take a certain penalty to all your actions on your turn, in exchange for inflicting that same penalty on your foes’ ranged weapon attacks. This has zero effect on your foes’ incoming melee attacks (but still penalizes you!). The maximum penalty you can voluntarily accept is (say) how many yards you actually moved this turn, plus your Basic Speed.

I might need to divide that by two. So if you have Basic Speed 6 and have moved your full 6-yard allotment  the best you can do is take a -6 to your own stuff and -6 to your foes.

Maybe I even need an exchange rate. You can inflict up to -6 on your foes, but you take -12. You may be disrupting everything you do, but it’ll be easier for your foe to plug you than it will be to shoot him while doing the crazy dodge and zigzag thing.

Blended


I have always liked the logic of DECIDE, but the all-or-nothing of the attack/defense sequence, even when you declare first, bothers me. There’s an argument, and not a bad one, for allowing Prediction Shot (-2 to hit for -1 to penalize Dodge for ranged weapon attacks) in realistic games. It’s in GURPS: Gun Fu, probably among other places.

Yes, both Gun Fu and Tactical Shooting were written by +Hans-Christian Vortisch. He’s just good that way.

Still, a nice way to split the difference is to reverse it. Use DECIDE, and make the defender choose his decision first. But . . . apply double the margin of success of the Dodge roll to the to-hit chance. A critical success on the defense roll means your foe must fire, and always misses (though might hit someone else). But any other result only alters the to-hit penalty. A critical success on the attack roll obviates any penalty from the defense except a critical, which has primacy of place. This favors defense over attack in this case, but since defenses are usually so very much lower than attacks, I’m cool with that.

I think I like DECIDE + Blended.

You’re shooting a laser at someone. They can’t react to the fire after they know it hits; they must choose whether or not to defend (nearly always dodge). If they roll vs. their Dodge-9 and get a 6, making it by 3, then you take -6 to hit. If you miss, you miss. If you hit, or hit with many shots, so be it. But they have to declare the defense (and suffer the consequences for things like Dodge and Drop) ahead of time.

[Note: I clearly have a rodent living in my wall, eating away at my insulation. It is distracting, and will ultimately be expensive. Sigh. I can hear the bastard chewing away.]

The decision order and how defenses only need be rolled on a successful hit raises eyebrows for nearly everyone. I can see why it’s done; why drive extra rolls on a miss? But for people with sparring, combat, or any kind of experience with fighting, it always strains, sometimes breaks, suspension of disbelief.

I think there are fixes to this that won’t burden the GM or players, but will help with the “yeah, that makes sense” factor.

Might result in some dead PCs, though. Better hope you took Luck and its variants.

Seeing It Coming


After I posted this, I remembered something. GURPS appropriately doesn’t allow any defenses against stuff you can’t see coming. So in order to actually be allowed to make the DECIDE roll:

  • If you’re defending against someone you’re actively attacking or aiming at – you get to make the  call, no problem. Just DECIDE.
  • If you are not engaged in an Aim or other “stare at someone” action (Wait, Evaluate, for starters) you should probably be able to make a modified Perception roll to see someone bearing down at you. 
  • If you are actively focusing on someone, then your Per roll is modified severely downward for tunnel vision. 
For the second one, you can probably take a general “Evaluate” that says “I’m looking for threats” that gives a bonus to the “does anyone draw a bead on me?” roll, but doesn’t give the usual Evaluate bonuses for focusing on one guy.
Note also that Tactical Shooting has actual playtested rules for situational awareness that certainly must apply here!