This is a very quick version of session notes from last week’s game, but I was in Malaysia. So, without further ado, nor editing, here’s a recap. I’ll edit this out into something more prose-like over time.

Dramatis Personae

  • Arc Light (Christian) – battlsuited gadgeteer with electrical powers
  • The Rat Queen (Emily) – brick with super-perception; made of actual rats
  • Eamon Finnegan (Kyle) – smooth talking gravity-master; Ultimate Fighting Lawyer, to borrow a phrase.
  • Zephyr (Merlin) – Real name Murui; Shaolin Kung Fu expert and super-speedster. 
  • Marionette (Ani) – Abilities run to boosting of others, and manipulation of animated objects. The Commander’s third cousin.

Session Start

Arc light sent a drone to track the commander but it got shot down
emily is out because of spells overloading her.
Commander looks the same in rf as everyone else
Marionette can probably track commander with amplification
arc light probably can build an amplifier at his lair.
adama crits doing data analysis for purchase patterns for household chemicals.  someone has been making wholesale purchases of household chemicals that are unusual and some thefts.  someone has been buying these things in cash and having them delivered to an address.
shared shipping warehouse.  


arc light wants to hack the hubble to keep an eye on the building.
he’s going to try to get historical and current footage
in truth we hack a russian satelite and follow him via satelite to his junkyard 30 miles north of the city.
we figure out for sure the enemy is dude and he has super maths he can use to predict the future and alter probability.
we plan to do a negative tactics roll to negate his successes.

We show up in the middle of the junkyard as if we hadn’t planned at all but he’s ready for that, has goons in the yard with guns who take aim when we show up.  combat begins!
We don’t get any special considerations on positioning and so we just go at it.

Marionette TK’s over to a schoolbus (bringing Zephyr with her) and begins to attempt to animate it.
Zephyr attempts to punch a guard but fails a will roll instead, draws his evil cursed knife and stabs a guard in the heart, who immediately dies. his ATR is up so then he runs to the next one who crit fails a dodge and jumps on his knife. 
arc light flys off to the side and tazes a dude. he goes limp

Eamon flys into a mess of guys and hits them with a slam of gravity knocking all 4 out and setting off an improvised explosive.

Eamon and his recently attacked goons get blowed up.  We take a bunch of damage and some of them die.

Someone of indeterminite location shoots at arc light with a directed EMP burst. the suit shuts down and arc light redlines the suit, getting it back into action

Marionette animates a bus, nothing happens yet, but soon!

goons shoot at us to no major effect
someone shoots a rocket at arclight that he dodges. then he gets a popup on his hud saying he’s been locked on

eamon picks himself up off the floor and hugs a junked helicopter

goons chuck a grenade at eamon who gravity pushes it back, then another goon picks it up again, tossing it to eamon who tosses it back a 2nd time.

marionette’s bus starts stomping around, on feet. and marionette guides it in to crush goons.

Marionette herself grabs some goon guns with TK, disarming them and slamming a gun into a goon’s face.

eamon moves the fusilage of the helicopter he’s been hiding behind, himself and Yukio 11 yards away, keeping himself covered.

A rocket that appeared to miss arc light earlier has arced back and tries to hit him again along with 2 additional rockets.  He’s standing next to a goon that he snatches up and attempts to save from the boom.  he attempts some fancy flying to get them to hit each other but fails.  Marionette burns a karma to pick up sacrificial defense for TK.  She reaches out and slams them together, saving arc light from the full brunt of the explosion, that said, they are still close enough to rattle his cage.

Zephyr runs up a crane and smacks the sniper guard, knocking him out.

arc light drops his goon into a water tower taking him out of the fight

Eamon gravity sledges the last foe.

Marionette invests CP in the bus to allow it to become permanant and self repair.
Eamon searches with gravity, finds a tunnel system and stunts tunneling with his gravity talent, ripping holes in the dirt to find a way into the tunnel

we begin exploring and find 3 prison cells in one is a man in tattered clothing with wild ratty hair.  he looks at us and begins to count on his fingers as if in a nervous tic.  It’s Andrew Farmer who we thought was the enemy.

he gives us a 14% chance to survive.

he gives himself 64% chance to survive in his cell, or 3% if he comes with us.

He says we don’t have time to chat. we leave to find the commander.

we scout around and find the commander unconscious chained all kinds of crazy ways to a chair.  Eamon taps him awake with TK, he mumbles at us and things start beeping, then he falls asleep again, the beeping slows.

before we do anything to claim the commander, we search the lair and find the other prisoners.  the traps on each prisoner are clearly wired together, we need to snatch them all at once.  Zephyr works up some magic and Marionette juices his spell up.  between him, eamon and marionette we now have 3 TK using party members and we sync watches, then grab everyone, avoiding cave in traps.  a beeping begins in another tunnel, marionette and arc light work together and disarmed it.  then we free farmer who was in the cell.

Warren Kivalina  is the enemy.  He says he watched him die and now he calls himself oblivion.  Warren isn’t interested in the commander, hes interested in arc light.  Warren says “you know what you did, you’re as guilty as all of us”.  the “accident” wasn’t.  arc light starts spilling the beans without taking the blame.  The process they were working on was supposed to fix brains and possibly repair them.  Z theorizes that warren is deformed or broken somehow, but still has super regeneration.  Marionette suspects that the treatment didn’t take because it wasnt formulated for warren.  Andrew Farmer says “he’s not the guy I knew”.  

Arc Light starts digging into the computer system Warren left behind.  Looking at the access logs he discovers that the loved ones of the magnificent 7 are being surveiled, including Arc’s wife.  he sees vid of arc and his wife talking then it fades to red and black.   session ends.

Over on the SJG Forums, user Railstar replied to a thread announcing last Thursday’s topic. It’s a valuable contribution to the discussion, so I reproduce it here:

Disarms and Reach


For GURPS at least, the Reach on Disarms is one reason to use it – because you can disarm someone from the combined Reach of both your weapons. This makes it very useful when approaching polearms, or as part of teamwork against an outnumbered opponent, or with long-weapon tactics. Simply stand out of striking distance constantly disarming until you either disarm or unready their weapon, whereupon that is the opportunity for your allies to rush in.

This can work in formation combat where spearmen with long spears stand 5-6 yards away and try to rake at each other’s spears before daring advance into stabbing distance, or in a duel with longswords where you can attempt to disarm from 4 yards away. The key advantage is you can do a disarm without being close enough for your opponent to hit.


Even an unsuccessful disarm can still be tactically useful if it provokes the enemy to rush in at you – Committed Attack, All-Out Attack or Move & Attack all lower defences, creating a window of vulnerability that you and your comrades can exploit. Meanwhile, the disarm does not require you to lower your defences at all, therefore you can still use Retreat and/or Cross Parry and/or Defensive Grip to make sure your defence against their rush is still good.

The disarm penalty is prohibitive when already in striking distance of your opponent; the penalty is simply too large compared to aiming for them, and so you put yourself at a disadvantage. The more reliable tactic to disarm when close is grapple (armed grapple?) and then opposed ST checks to attempt to pry the weapon from their hands. Even that is risky, best done from surprise where you ambush someone who has a weapon while you have none, but preferable to trying to fist-fight the sword-armed guy.

Actually, attacking someone’s hand is typically easier than attempting a disarm – and that has the advantage of making sure they stay disarmed. Similarly, for an unarmed option you might find that after grabbing their arm Arm Lock will be just as effective or more so than the opposed ST checks… unless you can’t afford to get bogged down grappling them. But if you’re outnumbered while unarmed by guys with weapons, you probably should have avoided this fight.

There is another benefit to disarms in GURPS; there is no DB from shields against them, so if you’re fighting against a large shield you can use this to minimise the effect of their high defences. This can be important psychologically if your opponent likes to rely on DB 2-3, as a further encouragement to push them into a rash advance.

So disarm can be very useful before closing, with room to back off, in combination with long weapon tactics. The key thing not to do is stand within stabbing distance while you do it.

Technically, even with Reach 1 weapons you could use this tactic to an extent. If you Retreat from their attack, rather than stepping forward into range to strike back, you could disarm and take another step back.

Disarms can also be a viable counter against polearms, not just using them. If our side has Reach 2 greatswords and their opponents have Reach 5 pikes, the greatswords can still attempt a disarm from Reach 7. Defensive Attack or Defensive Grip can be used to have a good Parry while still presenting a threat that the enemy has to react to, namely the threat of losing their weapons. Once the enemy with polearms step forward to attack, then unless there are supporting ranks behind them that can give the fighter with the shorter weapon an opportunity to rush in safely and move past the reach of the polearms.

Essentially, Disarms can extend your Reach and that opens up a lot of tactical flexibility.

This is a guest post by Kalzazz on the GURPS Forums. He heeded my call to arms, and contributed this post on Disarming in GURPS. I have done some minor editing for formatting and flow, but that’s all.

Disarming

This is one of those things. Yes, GURPS has rules for disarming, but I can’t offhand recall, in 15 years of playing (and DMing!) GURPS, ever actually seeing it happen.

I had to actually go and look said rules up. First, I notice that the technique can be increased above the skill, so that seems groovy, since it can always be fun to have a specialist (I next noticed no styles in MA actually had Technique Mastery for it though, I think it sounds like a valid one to me).

Then I noticed said disarming is mostly just to offset the penalties involved, less groovy:

  • You have a penalty based on size of the weapon (-5 for handguns and daggers to -3 for polearms and rifles), then a -2 if your not using a fencing weapon. 
  • The foe can defend as usual. 
  • Then they can match DX or ST based skill (against your DX or ST based skill) to keep the weapon even after you hit. (Guns however just flat DX or ST). 
  • If you are using a jitte/sai class weapon, you get +2 to the former roll 

So . . . . why wouldn’t I have seen this?

  • As a DM, I admit a certain dislike of ‘gimmicky’ rules and having enemies use ‘gimmicky’ techniques, so I tend to favor enemies that go right up next to the PCs and ‘swing for the HP’, so disarms are something I don’t really think about. 
  • If you disarm a foe . . . you still have a living conscious foe, who might well just draw another weapon and hit you with it instead. In order to pull off a disarm you needed a successful attack and a failed defense, so you could have done damage instead. 
  • The disarming rules are simple, but they aren’t something I have fully internalized either . . . also there are a few questions like ‘Lifting or Striking ST for the checks?’ 
  • Now that I have once again looked at the rules for disarms, I do remember being annoyed that defending against disarms with a gun involved straight up DX or ST (or the retain weapon technique, which goes up to stat + 5). 

Now, most of my “wouldn’t this be cool” daydreams involve “Evil McEvil tries to steal Heroman’s gun, but using his Weapon Retention skills, Heroman turns the tables and shoots Evil McEvil!” 

I have sat through and participated in enough weapon retention classes that ended with ‘and then you stun the aggressor and retreat to a safe distance to maintain control of the situation’, and the ideal way indicated to stun the aggressor is to shoot them with the weapon which you have put your good Weapons Retention skills to use to retain . . . 

Even if Heroman has maxed his Weapons Retention at Stat + 5, he is still in major trouble keeping his weapon against a true epic villain (and its not very heroic of Heroman if he prevails in the face of a garden variety mook).

What is the role of Disarming?

So then . . . . why would I want to disarm someone? 
(some of these are suggested by GURPS Forum user starslayer).

Murder is not acceptable. Murder is usually not acceptable, the drawback of disarming leaving a living foe is actually not so much a drawback when killing your foes is considered antisocial behavior. Or perhaps your foes are mind controlled or confused folks who are not actually foes!   If the enemies are likely to fail morale checks and want to disengage if you disarm them then this is a major plus. (this is suggested by starslayer).

Enemies have weapons that are awesome, and disarming is easier than killing. If your foe has some nifty weapon you would prefer not to be hit with, then you want your foe not to hit you with it. Usually this is done by hitting them until they die, however, it is easy to imagine scenarios where this is not the case. 

Nova from the cancelled Starcraft Ghost

Consider this excellent picture by Greg Horn. First off, we notice that hitting her in the face with a non fencing weapon has the same penalty as trying to hit the rifle to start the process with a non fencing weapon.

Even so, let us assume she has a helmet and that her armor is not power armor. In that case, trying to disarm the weapon (which is a big cool looking rifle, which we can assume falls safely under the things we would not like to be hit with category), requires an attack roll at -5 with our non-fencing weapon. She can defend against the attack – but holding a rifle her defense is likely dodge, and with a big rifle and armor, likely encumbered dodge. 

If we hit, we roll a quick contest of our skill vs her DX or ST (whichever is better, +2 if she holds her rifle with both hands which she likely would in a fight, or up to +5 if she has Retain Weapon). If we are skillful, we are highly likely to succeed!

On a normal attack, if we do not have a lot of ST, we would have a hard time cracking her armor, so she would likely still have her rifle on her next go and want to shoot us. So in this case, disarm was a good idea (if we can get in range of course . . . . Gun Fu has rules for disarms with guns, which might be even MORE useful!).

The foe is armed with a missile weapon. Due to the fact that missile weapons don’t get to use their skill in defending against disarms, they definitely are a good target for it. However, since Disarm is by default melee, this raises a bit of an issue of getting to melee. The old Western movie trick of shooting guns out of hands definitely has merit! 

Also notice in GURPS that a sidearm often has mediocre damage, especially against armor, but if you shoot the pistol out of someones hand, if they do not have a spare gun, they either need to close to melee (time consuming if at range) or go pick their gun back up (also time consuming). During which time you can shoot some more. 

Of course, many gun wielders (and archers) may often have extra Lifting ST for wielding bigger better weapons and lugging ammo and armor.

You have high skill and low (or irrelevant) damage. Pixie Swashbucklers could find this very useful! Disarming allows you to use DX based skill for both rolls! 

I admit this seems an edge case, as usually people who want to have high skill with a weapon also desire to have the ability to hit like a truck.

Or when facing foes ‘Only able to be harmed by Foozle’, and you are not the one with Foozle (hopefully one of your friends has Foozle).

Because it could be cool. Being cool is always a valid reason, and a DM could certainly grant a bonus to an intimidate check. Since disarming can often be harder than ‘hit them till they cease functioning’, I would totally go with that. And it is much easier to use social skills on people after you disarm them than after you kill them.

As a DM, it could be fun to spice things up! Believe it or not, I do not actually try to kill my players (or their characters) too much: I try to give them fun fights. 

Enemies using something off the wall like trying to disarm them could be cool. Also seeing their favorite sword being disarmed from them would in many cases be scarier than just taking the HP loss. Some players like giving their characters a veritable arsenal, so disarming them just gives them a chance to show off with a new weapon. As a DM I think I should try this out.

Settings where magic/psi is tied to objects. This one immediately calls to mind Harry Potter, where wands were extremely important, and lo and behold: Expelliarmus was a thing (the disarming spell).

Fire Emblem is another setting where mages use items to fling magic (though they usually carry backups, but in a serious fight you could do well to take out your foes favorite tome).

Winning the battle of public opinion is critical. In full 4 color supers/full gritty supers (where (suggested by starslayer), this can be a thing. I have been watching the old He-Man cartoon, and he seems kind of like a Super, and he definitely is a major disarm fan. 

My recollection of Smallville: Superman doesn’t lose his skills when affected by Kryptonite, just his Strength, so he could well try to disarm Kryptonite away from someone even when he can’t hit like a truck.

Disarming Thoughts

So there you have it, thoughts on Disarming by a moderately experienced GURPS DM / player who would never in a million years have thought about writing about Disarming (or thought about writing about GURPS period), but really does enjoy discussing blog posts with authors such as Douglas Cole in the GURPS forum. 

So when the gauntlet is thrown, I decided “why not take a shot at it?” Hopefully these will help spur some thoughts.

The Disarm mechanic is dead simple, so there is no reason there not to use it, and I think could well add some fun to the game when used . . . . but does seem to take some mental contortions to figure out when it should be used. 

 I would love to see more topics on such things in the future, especially Setup Attacks, as I really would like to see more discussion of them and when/if they should be used!

Also I think no post about disarming should be complete without mentioning it is often a cool thing for Samurai to do, and Samurai are cool, and Doug likes Samurai and GURPS, so hopefully mention will come up!

I’ve heard rumblings that at least three blogs will be hitting the GURPS and other games pavement over the next month or so. 

+Jake Bernstein, who goes by Apoc527 on the SJG Forums, was instrumental in playtesting some of my stuff. He took Technical Grappling for a spin, as well as playtesting On Target before it was published. Based on a comment he left on my prior post, he may well be starting a blog soon. If not, I’ll lean on him to be a regular guest poster.

The Forum user Mailanka, who is one of the only players that I know of to fully embrace The Last Gasp in all its glory, has a blog of his own. Every Wednesday (sigh, not Thursday/GURPSDay, but I’ll be OK) he’ll be posting a new GURPS post. I’m linking all his GURPS content over in the Arsenal. 

Finally, I know that there’s going to be one more coming, but I can’t talk about it. No, it’s not me. Yes, I know who it is. Yes, y’all should be excited about it. Wait and see.

Shawn Fisher, co-author of GURPS High-Tech and GURPS WW2: Hand of Steel (among other published works) posted a comment to the thread on rules-lawyering that somehow bounced from Blogger. He contacted me offline with the comment, which was fairly extensive – too extensive to be buried in the comments!
So here’s more fuel on the fire. I anticipate restrained and level discussion.
The very point of rules is to help narrate an adventure game. No GURPS writer will ever be able to write rules that are perfect: That’s an impossible standard. In addition, GURPS authors aren’t trying to do that anyway. GURPS has an official play style that is very important. 


On Basic Set p.492 it says a GM listens

“to the players describe what they’re doing, then use the rules of the game to tell them what happens, so they can describe what they want to do next . . .the sections below will help you, as GM, determine “what happens next” in a variety of situations. But the most important things are not “rules” at all, but guidelines for good GMing. Use common sense. When any rule gives a silly result, follow common sense instead. No matter how much we playtest, no rules are perfect – including these. Don’t let the players turn into “rules lawyers.”

So the rules are intended for mature people, playing a cooperative game, who are willing to use common sense to fill in the gaps – or fudge results – and who can handle their own problem solving. It says that right on the tin. If you are unhappy with that purpose, play another game: GURPS will never make you happy.

Robin Laws, in his book published by SJGames, says,

“What really makes a difference in the success or failure of a roleplaying session is you. Your participation, whether as GM or player, has much more influence on the fun your group has than all of the game products in the world. Rule books are not roleplaying games, any more than a screenplay is a movie.”

So, yes, if you like a particular play style that is at odds with what GURPS writers are doing, according to company editorial guidelines, you are “doing it wrong.” If you expect the rules to provide “the fun,” Robin Laws thinks otherwise. Ken Hite and many others will likely agree with us, and not with you. That’s fine. Ignore us all. But do not come and bang on our door and whine and cry and hair pull that it’s not working for you. It’s never going to!

Also, understand that no amount of thinking, writing, editing, thinking, playtesting, re-writing, editing, will produce a set of rules that cannot be misunderstood. Rules are not objective – they are by their nature subjective. Ever read a grammar book, and then the commentary on grammar styles? Game rules are no different. People will inevitably misunderstand the rules. It’s the nature of language. GURPS authors aren’t paid to answer questions on the forums. If we do show up, it’s out of a sense of love for the hobby, and nothing else. I can’t tell you how much “fun” it is to be chided on the forums by people who don’t write books and who can’t read the rules. Or buy the products. Nothing in any of that experience is fun, I assure you.

Finally, let me say this. People that have a problem with game rules and playing in a cooperative game often have other problems in real life. This is not directed at anyone in this thread, but it has made me think.

I’ve been a gamer since the 1980s. I’ve never met a bad gamer who was a success in real life, or who didn’t constantly have problems with relationships and employment outside of gaming. I’ve met good gamers who were well-adjusted and had successful careers, but the worst rules lawyers and the most argumentative people to ever sit at my gaming table were not the doctors, lawyers, professors, teachers, engineers, and career police and military officers. The worst offenders were pizza delivery drivers, convenience store clerks, and stock room workers, or the unemployed. This is not to deride those jobs (I did those things, and worse, in my college years), but rather to say that there is in my experience some correlation between politeness, propriety, and group cooperation and the ability to hold down a steady job that pays a decent wage. Gamers that do not have real life success often game to experience success through escapism, and when that too is denied, the response can be vicious. Often the very same people who showed up without snacks, a character sheet, or even a character name (call me Bob) were also the ones most intent on misconstruing the rules, mis-adding character points, and generally being a nuisance in other ways.

Again, I’m not accusing anyone here of these things, only recalling my interactions with bad players. Make of it what you will.

Finally – and perhaps a bit tangentially – the point of a blog is to post one’s opinion, free from censorship of others. Doug’s blog is his place to speak. If a person comes here and posts, it’s like standing in his living room. Be respectful of his space.

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 a guest blog column by Geoffrey Fagan. He doesn’t have a blog himself, but participated regularly in the GURPS Forums under the username GEF.


Part IV: Influence
An Influence Roll takes the place of a Reaction Roll; use one or the other. Why do they use different mechanics? I have no idea. Influence Rolls are based on skill, which enables you to leverage the attributes on which they’re based, but they use the mechanic of a contest (against Will) and compress the range of possible outcomes (either Bad or Good, but never extremely so). Reaction modifiers generally apply to Influence skills, but there are exceptions, and the GM may waive any he wishes.
Intimidation is the Influence Skill based on Will. Since Will is cheap and valuable in its own right, this is a bargain, plus you can get lots of bonuses, for displays of strength, cruelty, larger size, for Hideous or worse Appearance (instead of a penalty!), and a +3 bonus for lying (Fast-Talk roll). Specious Intimidation (lying) can backfire, resulting in a Very Bad, rather than merely Bad, reaction if you fail.
Carousing and Sex Appeal are based on HT. Of the two, Sex Appeal applies in more contexts (but only among half of the population), and it results in a Very Good reaction, instead of merely Good, upon success. However, it’s based upon an implied promise, so you could get a rep as a tease if the promise is never fulfilled.
All other influence skills are based on IQ. Savoir-Faire is the easiest, though context-specific. Streetwise is conceptually Savoir-Faire for the street, but it’s special in that it ignores all the usual reaction modifiers, so if you load up on reaction penalties, be sure to learn this skill! Diplomacy is the hardest Influence Skill to learn, but worth it, because you get a normal Reaction Roll in conjunction with the Influence Roll and take the better result. Effectively, Diplomacy compresses the range of reaction results only on the bad side.
Of course, the GM is free to call for an Influence Roll based on other skills; likely candidates are Administration, Interrogation, Leadership, Merchant, and Teaching. Remember that the differences between these skills have to do with approach, and the context in which each approach is appropriate; any Influence skill can be used toward any goal, be it information, a fair price, or an end to hostility. “Dudley, mind your manners, young man.” “Yeah Dudley, shut up or I’ll pound ya!” Different approaches (that is, different skills) avoid the penalty for repeated attempts; technically, trying Intimidation after Savoir-Faire has failed is not a repeated attempt for Savoir-Faire.
Synergy
What if you want to leverage a high attribute and the points invested in an Influence skill, but you don’t want to compress the reaction results? Well, GURPS has a general rule for using skills in conjunction: Roll the helper skill first, and modify the primary roll by + or -1 on success or failure (doubled for crit success or failure). There’s no reason why a generic Reaction Roll can’t be the “primary” in this case, effectively turning a reliable Influence skill into another +1 modifier.
Of course, you can use a secondary Influence Skill to assist an Influence Roll. Fast-Talk, whether it represents a glib deception or literal fast talking, leaving the subject no time to think things through, works well with any Influence Skill and especially Intimidation, as noted above. Other good helper skills for Influence rolls include Psychology or any related skill (Body Language, Detect Lie, and Fortune-Telling) to read the subject’s motive, and any skill that can establish rapport (Acting, Current Affairs, Connoisseurship). “Hey, how ‘bout them Giants?”

Cases
Salesmen are merchants and probably have Merchant skill, but the art of getting someone to tell you what they want or need, or convincing them that they want or need what you have to sell, and getting them to listen to the pitch is all about Influence. Intimidation is rarely the right approach, but any of the rest work fine; a good salesman probably has Fast-Talk at minimum for the “elevator pitch” and another couple chosen for his market (Savoir-Faire for the luxury boutique, Streetwise for the black market, Sex Appeal for charming his way past the “gatekeeper” receptionist, Carousing for taking the businessman out for a drink).
Interviewing uses Interrogation skill in coercive situations; that could include actual torture, or just keeping a suspect in a locked room drinking coffee with no bathroom breaks. In a non-coercive context, like a journalist getting a story, that’s just a “request for information” Reaction Roll or Influence Roll. Influence Rolls compress the results, so the best the journalist can hope to get is Good, but that’s usually enough for info. A journalist should have a toolkit of multiple approaches.
Anyone who makes his way in the world by the good will of others needs high Reaction Modifiers to get results better than Good on ordinary Reaction Rolls, but with all those modifiers, effective Influence skills are cheap! So pick up a few. Depending on your natural social environment, pick up Carousing, Savoir-Faire, or Streetwise, just to fit in, and you can always use it as a helper for a generic Reaction Roll. 
GURPS 102
This overview of social traits is by no means the last word, just my attempt to highlight the value of an aspect of GURPS rules that can be overlooked. For an in-depth treatment, see GURPS Social Engineering. For a light treatment, see GURPS Monster Hunters 2. The latter supplement outlines an abstract approach to gathering clues to track down the monster of the week, but it works just as well for finding buried treasure or a kidnapper’s hideout. Of course, requests for information and their attendant Reaction Rolls are a big part of any investigation. 

This is a guest blog column by Geoffrey Fagan. He doesn’t have a blog himself, but participated regularly in the GURPS Forums under the username GEF.

Part III: Reaction Modifiers
When you can’t do it on your own, you ask for help and roll on the Reaction Table. This is the one time in GURPS, other than damage, when you want to roll high! To understand how this works, understand the table: It’s on page 560 of the Basic Set (Campaigns). You’re looking for at least 10, for 9 means no help, and 6 or less could create a hindrance. Even a 10 means the best you can hope for is directions to the nearest gas station.

13 is a Good reaction. People are pleasant, but that’s it. The merchant still sells at list price, but he gives you service with a smile.

16 is Very Good. Now that merchant actually gives you a discount. The cop lets you off with a warning.

19 is Excellent. Half price. The bandits who ambushed you let you go and apologize. If you ask for help, they help in every way within their power. That bears repeating: Every way within their power.

Now as you may infer from that last entry, Reaction Rolls take modifiers that can push the result above 18 (or below zero). Some of these modifiers are situational, but some are permanent features of your character sheet. If you have a Reaction Modifier of +6 (a Beautiful Appearance), then a quarter of the merchants you meet will sell at half price. If there are 4 merchants in town, the odds are high that at least one of them will.

The general rule for reaction modifiers is that they cost 5 points per level. That’s what Charisma is, a generic reaction modifier, independent of circumstances. You’ve got it – whatever “it” may be. The opposite of Charisma is an Odious Personal Habit, which can be something specific (like excessive vulgarity), but it doesn’t have to be. Your character can be generically creepy just as his opposite number is generically cool.

Appearance and Voice act like Charisma with slight limitations (vision- and hearing-based respectively). With a good voice (or disturbing one), the discount is not evident; that’s because it’s balanced by a modifier to certain skills as well as reaction rolls. In a campaign with alien sapience or fantasy races, Appearance may not provide universal benefit, but it always applies with members of your own species. Past the first positive level, Appearance is half off because it only applies to members of the opposite sex (or who play for the other team). Fashion Sense is a level of Appearance with a transferable benefit, and it comes in a perk-level version (from Power-Ups 2): Looks Good in Uniform. Negative Reaction Modifiers count against the campaign limit for disadvantages, so while it may be interesting to play the Ugly guy with a lovely Voice, you wind up with a net neutral Reaction Modifier but still count 8 points against the limit.

Other sources of Reaction Modifiers are Status and Social Regard (culture-wide) and Rank (organization-wide), discussed in Part I, and Reputation, which is based on your personal legend and not that of the group to which you belong. If your character has a Reputation for competence in his field, that’s included in the Talent that makes him so capable. While the special effects differ, Reaction Modifiers are mostly fungible for game purposes. Whether people like you because of your looks or title, they still help you.

The degree to which people help depends in part on your roll, but also on their ability, and how much it costs them. Answering questions costs them nothing, so they’ll do that with even a moderately good Reaction Roll. In other words, information wants to be free, so a good Reaction Modifier can be as useful as a Contact.

Conditions

As the example of Appearance illustrates, Reaction Modifiers can be conditional. Beauty always is, and Reputation usually is. A modifier which affects only some Reaction Rolls is cheap, and as with an Ally-Dependent, a rep which gets you a bonus from some folks and a penalty from others counts its net value against the campaign limit for disadvantages. That brings us to the point of this article. If everyone despises you, that is a crippling disadvantage, and you might as well make a character with HT 7. However, if some people like you and some don’t, that’s cheap overall, yet almost as beneficial as if everyone likes you! You may not be able to get help from just anyone, but you can always get help from someone.

Characters with mixed reaction modifiers are quite believable. Imagine a Triad enforcer in old San Francisco. He’s a member of a minority (Social Stigma) and has a Reputation that gives him a +2 bonus in Chinatown and a like penalty with the cops. Such a rep is a mere perk if he’s recognized half the time. About town, he’s scorned (Reactions -2), but among his own people, he’s respected and feared (Reactions +4 when recognized). He might get thrown out of the fancy stores downtown, but he can always get a good deal nearer the docks.

Thresholds

What Reaction Modifier do you want? A review of the Reaction Roll table suggests some breakpoints:

+7 means that you never experience a Poor reaction in the absence of situational penalties, and that a quarter of the time, you get an Excellent reaction! If this is all from Charisma (35 points), it’s a level of “animal magnetism” bordering on psychic influence. A realistic cap on Charisma might be +3, with which you’d need Beautiful Appearance to make up the difference (net cost 27). In this case, you occasionally suffer a Poor reaction from members of your own gender, and get an Excellent reaction from them only 10% of the time, but generally you experience Very Good reactions, enough to do all your shopping at a discount, get any information you ask for, and talk your way out of any potential conflict. This is a good target for a “face man” character concept. Downgrade Appearance to merely attractive, but add Voice (net cost 29 with Charisma), and you get +6 across the board, and still +5 over a telephone. If you have to save points on this build, replace Charisma with Pitiable, if it works with your concept.

Instead of Appearance, take a Talent at level 4, for minimum cost 35 points with Charisma +3. Now, you get +4 to several skills, and +7 to reactions from the people with whom you deal most often. From others, you rarely experience a Bad reaction, and you get a Good reaction half the time. This is an excellent build for a leader in his field, and if that justifies a couple levels of Rank, which comes with a level of Status, it alleviates the need for one level of Charisma, net cost 40 points. Even for a 100-point character, this is quite affordable, as the Talent makes for impressive skill levels. Since a highly skilled professional can make a lot of money, the concept can extend to Wealthy, providing another level of Status, obviating another level of Charisma, net cost 55. Now that’s a big chunk of points, but it gets you a character with +4 in certain skills, +3 to +8 for reaction rolls, plenty of his own money and access to the resources of an organization. Not bad. Remember that when you have discretion over whom to ask for help, you can choose someone with whom your larger Reaction Modifier applies, in this example preferably someone in your own organization.

+4 means that you never suffer worse than a Poor reaction, so some folks are rude but none are violent. Most of the time, you’ll get a Good reaction, meaning that the people around you are pleasant and you don’t get ripped off, and they answer your questions accurately if not thoroughly. Every once in a while, you’ll meet someone who’ll do everything in his power to help. This is a good level to shoot for with any character, at least on a conditional basis, arguably the best bang for the buck, and you can get it from a single advantage (Appearance, Reputation, Talent). Of course, a fitting Talent may be worth the cost for its skill bonuses alone, but don’t overlook the way its Reaction Modifier can make life easier.

+1 means you’ll never suffer Very Bad reactions, let alone a Disastrous one, and most of the time, you’ll get at least Neutral. If you have 4 points left over, buy Attractive. Conversely, with -1, you’ll still manage a Neutral or better reaction half the time, so it’s not crippling. With -3, you’ll suffer a Poor reaction (or worse) most of the time, and that is crippling if it’s not a conditional penalty. If you’ve reached that point, you may as well pile on more!

This is a guest blog column by Geoffrey Fagan. He doesn’t have a blog himself, but participated regularly in the GURPS Forums under the username GEF.
Social Traits
GURPS addresses social traits in its game mechanics, comprehensively, in a couple of ways: Those traits that establish existing relationships, and “Reaction Modifiers” that affect the formation of new ones. 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.  

Part II: Relationships
Usually, a player
creates his character, and the GM creates everything else, but certain traits
on a character sheet allow a player to take a step into the GM’s domain. By
defining relationships for his character, the player requires that certain NPCs
exist in the setting. As a rule of thumb, think of three relationships for a
starting character’s backstory: Family members, old school chums, the bully who
beat you up, maybe a former mentor. Even a deceased relation can provide a plot
hook, but living relations may be may be represented as traits on your
character sheet
If you have an
existing relationship with another character, then he might be your Patron,
Ally, Dependent, Enemy, or Contact, or if he’s just an old friend, perhaps a
Claim to Hospitality. A single individual can justify more than one of these
traits. If you’re a spy, and you work with a spy for another country, he could
become your friend and yet work against you on a future mission where the
interests of your countries diverge. At least he’ll apologize before he shoots
you. All of these traits require interaction with the GM, for the player
proposes, but ultimately the GM decides, and while it is traditional to let a
player run his character’s Allies, especially in a fight, the GM is free to
co-opt control of any NPC. The decision to do so is ultimately helpful to
players, because it puts their characters in the spotlight.
A sidekick is an Ally
less powerful than you are. For 9 points, he’ll be pretty good, though (75% as
good as you), and he can hang around most of the time (95%). That’s good enough
to be an honorary party member, and he can augment your character with skills
that you can’t afford for yourself. Maybe you’re a cowboy and good with a gun,
and your ally is a half-breed Indian with good Stealth. Even if his skill-set
is similar to your own, it never hurts to have a capable pal watch your back,
and bandage you up if you live through the fight. If your Ally is a loved one,
maybe your little brother, you actually get points back for having him as a
dependent, too! Add the value of Ally and Dependent together to determine the
net cost of the relationship, and that’s what counts against your campaign
limit on disadvantages.
Allies need not be
human. That same cowboy could have a horse as an ally, and that’s the best way
to model a horse with unusual intelligence, training, and loyalty. In a fantasy
campaign, a witch’s familiar is an Ally, and it makes her eligible for a steep
discount on supernatural advantages (Granted by Familiar, 40% off).
A more powerful
character is probably a Patron instead of an Ally, though the defining
difference is the nature of the relationship, not the point cost. An Ally is
there with you in the thick of the action, whereas a Patron helps you out with a
job offer, vouchsafe, supplies, or maybe an extraction when your exfiltration
goes awry. Pay careful attention to the various modifiers that go into the cost
of the advantage: One of the best is to cover the cost (and licensing) of
special equipment. Kit for a medieval knight is expensive, and they two ways to
get it are with Wealth (or some variation, like Signature Gear) or a Patron.
The latter provides a better plot hook, though. Remember that a patron with
money, position, and supernatural powers is of no use if you can’t reach him.
The Patron advantage
is very flexible, for it can model anything from a parent who helps out with
tuition or a senior officer who shepherds your career, to a god from whom you
can call down curses upon your enemies. In the latter form, it’s the ultimate
super power, though quite expensive. Patrons typically come with a duty, though
it’s not mandatory, and you can even have a Secret Patron who helps you for
reasons unknown.
Contacts are
specifically defined as sources of information, the iconic example being a
cop’s snitch. GURPS is somewhat plastic, though, and variants that involve
specific services probably qualify, such as a black marketeer. He doesn’t give
you illegal guns – that’d take a Patron – but if you have the cash, he can set
up the buy. Contacts who capable, ready, and discrete are quite expensive, but
that’s okay, because a less-than-ideal Contact is actually a better vehicle for
driving drama in the story, and that’s the point of the game, after all. Remember
that Contacts are a mutual relationship. Usually thequid pro quo happens
off camera, but the GM is well-justified in using a Contact to start an
adventure or add a complication.
Claim to Hospitality
is the cheapest way to represent a friend, a single point, a perk. Most
realistic characters have at least one! The benefit spelled-out in the rule is
a place to crash, but don’t get wrapped up in that. With merchant house as a
specific example, it should at least extend to introductions to people known to
your host, a guide to the city, or any comparably minor favor. In modern times
it would include access to such conveniences as a phone, computer, and car (if
only when the host is not using them). Remember, you have the claim on a person,
not a rule, and he can do what a person could do, albeit not an adventurous
person (because then he’d be an Ally). Influence skills are appropriate to
determine just how much help you can get, hopefully with a bonus because this
guy’s already your friend, right? Just don’t wear out your welcome.
Dependents are Allies,
but so weak or so dear that they represent a net disadvantage in game terms
(though I would say that a loving, happy family is a net positive in real
life). The big advantage of this disadvantage is that you can get points for it
without being crazy or crippled, and simultaneously you provide the GM with a
plot hook to get you involved. He needn’t threaten Dependents directly; he may
just be able to start an adventure when your character goes to pick up the kids
from school, or leverage a husband’s desire to do well by his wife as
motivation to get involved with a high-stakes venture.
And that brings us to
Enemy, the best bargain in the game! Combat Reflexes gives you lots of benefits
for just 15 points, and attributes make you better at lots of skills, but Enemy
puts your character right in the spotlight and gives you
points back! Yes, your Enemy may hate you, but having one makes you important.
The enemies of your Enemy become your friends. The best Enemy is actually a
variant, a Rival, someone who isn’t trying to kill you, just to outshine you.
He’ll provoke the best from you in turn. If you reciprocate the animosity, that
may suggest another advantage, like Obsession. A Rival can also be an Ally, the
kind with a base cost of 5, because he’s never a mere sidekick. This is an
especially interesting relationship fraught with real role-playing opportunity,
and as with an Ally-Dependent, apply the net cost of the relationship against
the campaign limit for disadvantages. (While an Enemy need not be human, if the
whole universe is out to get you, look at Divine Curse instead.)
Scaling Up
Patron and Enemy both
can represent groups large and small, but what determines the value of these
traits is power, of which the membership roster is only one aspect. Claim to
Hospitality is built to scale into levels that don’t require specifying every friend,
so if you’re the popular kid at school, or a salesman who’s built up an
extensive base of customers who’ll take his call, just spend 5 to 10 points on
Claim to Hospitality. You can’t count more than a couple of Dependents, but
Contact and Ally scale up to groups with a caveat: To be eligible for the bulk
rate discount, they all have to be the same.

However, there’s a
trick you can play with Ally Group, if your GM permits it. Since this is a
primer, I won’t dwell on the mechanism, but in short it’s Cosmic Modular
Ability with an Accessibility limitation worth -80%: Individual Ally Can’t
Reallocate. Build your allies mostly the same, but reserve some number of
points, say 20%, for personal traits. For 50-point Allies, that’d be 10 points.
Then, divide that number by 2, and each of the mostly-similar Allies can have a
personal touch, worth 5 points in this case. One might have Absolute Direction,
and another might be emotionally Sensitive, and another might be a decent
(IQ+2) Carpenter and dabble (IQ-1) in artistic Woodworking. 

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!