Originally in Technical Grappling, Grip ST – how many dice you get to roll when you grab someone – was figured differently. During revision, it was changed, and during playtest, it was altered, folder, spindled, and mutilated.

Ultimately, I decided to go with a precise way to combine limbs when grappling. Figure out the contribution in pounds of force (represented by Basic Lift) of each limb or pair of limbs depending on bioloty, add ’em up as Basic Lift, and figure out the ST required to produce that level of Basic Lift.

The advantage here is that it didn’t produce insane numbers, and it also gave a great way to figure out the grappling power applied when you’re dogpiled by seven kobolds or something. Take their Trained ST, square each one, add that value up, and take the square root.

But ew. Hot mess at the table, with or without the handy chart.

+Peter V. Dell’Orto and I have looked at some of this, and found a nice solution for certain parts. But ArchonShiva over at Further Up the Spire has come up with a fast way to work it. It might not be accurate in all cases, but it’s way more tractable at the table.

So go check out Manageable Grip ST in Technical Grappling and see what he’s all about.   

Had an interesting question from +Mark Langsdorf about a situation that arose in his Mecha Against the Giants campaign. 

A SM+2 mecha (6 tons, ST85, Basic Lift 0.72 tons) wanted to curb-stomp a downed giant leader. That leader is SM+4, weighs 12 tons, and is ST160. He’s also got Wrestling at DX+4, which is a +3 bonus per ST 10, or basically +30% to ST.  The giant has a crippled leg (and a wounded arm) as well. If they actually grapple, the giant will be at +2 to DX and +30% to ST or Trained ST when grapplling due to the difference in relative size modifier.

They’re using the Technical Grappling rules for extreme grappling awesomeness. 

So here’s the situation: the mecha kicks at the giant, and the giant successfully performs a one-handed grabbing parry. The question was, basically, what the hell happens, and what should the giant do next?


Grabbing Parry


Grabbing Parry was a modification and generalization of Hand Catch from Martial Arts, and has some similarities with Aggressive Parry. You defend at some significant penalties (-2 to start, and then more for what you’re trying to actually parry, and very, very high penalties if you’re defending against weapons. 

Even so, many grappling parries are one-handed, and the point of a Grappling Parry is not, in fact, to get an awesome grip. It’s to get even a 0 CP grip, so that you don’t have to make a separate attack roll to achieve a grapple on your own turn. You can proceed to improve your grip, change position or orientation, attempt a lock, etc. 

For those reasons, the CP inflicted by the Grabbing Parry are limited to ST/2 (the assumption for unimproved one-handed ST) with no training bonus. You also don’t get any boosts for relative size modifier until after you’ve already secured a grapple.

In this case, the giant will be rolling vs a one-handed ST 80, with no training or size bonuses. That’s 9d control points. The following turn, his own turn, he’s now grappling, and all the skill and size bonuses apply.

This means:

Two-Handed Trained ST: ST 160 x 1.3 (from Wrestling at DX+4) and another 30% boost from +2 relative size modifier means his final ST vs the mecha, with two hands, is ST 208 with a training bonus of +48 (that’s separated out for a reason), for a total two-handed Trained ST of ST 256.

With a one-handed grapple, you start with ST 80, but the training bonus is supposed to be a flat add, for ST 128, and then the size boost would make a one-handed Trained ST 166.

Making the Training Bonus path dependent made sense when I wrote it, but does make the math a bit more cumbersome. 

Anyway, a successful Grabbing Parry allows an initial 9d CP (average about 31 or 32 CP), and the ST of the mecha means he’s at -1 DX for ever 16 CP applied. So the grabbing parry will, on the average apply about a -2 penalty to the DX of the mecha from the get-go.

The Follow Up

On the giant’s turn, if he can do so, he’ll want to attack with a two-handed grapple. He’s prone (but maybe he has Ground Fighting), but skilled. At worst he’s probably rolling at DX to DX+4.

But he’s got a grapple, so there’s no reason not to double the awesome and just go right for a Leg Lock. This is an attack roll with his Lock technique, which defaults to flat Wrestling. A two-handed grapple will lock the mecha’s leg and inflict 26d extra CP. That’s an extra 91 CP, making a total of about 122 CP, which will be -7 to DX from the grapple on the leg. 

With such high penalties, the mecha will be hard pressed to successful parry.

Next (or even at the same time, if Mr. Giant wants to Rapid Strike or All-Out Attack (Double) and lose his defenses) it’s in the giant’s best interests to establish a weight advantage. The giant’s weight of 12 tons much exceeds the mecha’s 0.72-ton basic lift, and so establishing a weight advantage will put the mecha at a -13 penalty based on exceeding the 16xBL threshold on p. 8.

In fact, the weight advantage is so advantageous that it’s probably a better move overall than establishing some sort of fancy-pants leg lock.

If the giant can establish the weight advantage, the mecha will be at a huge penalty to do any sort of mass-based move, or resist one – explicitly including attacking to break free. Between the CP from any sort of leg lock, plus the penalties due to the mass, well . . . the “pin” may have been removed formally, but at this point the mecha will likely be pretty helpless.

To make it worse, the giant can attempt a takedown, and since that’s a mass-based move, the mecha is still at -13 to resist it in the Quick Contest. 

Parting Shot


Ultimately, what this shows is that mass matters, and being outmassed by 2x, with another 2x difference in ST (and 4x in lifting power) means that getting grabbed by such a foe is going to render you pretty powerless to resist.

I found the same thing when grappling a guy who outmassed me by about 50% at the time, and he was certainly not double my ST either, but while I was able to grapple with him pretty effectively using skill and agility (but I wasn’t allowed to choke him out or torque his limbs, since he was a beginner), when he got on top of me by throwing his weight around, he rapidly crushed me under his weight, leaving me pretty helpless, especially since pressure point techniques and other things that didn’t rely on strength, leverage, and weight were forbidden to me.

But still: the mecha is doubly in trouble. He’s been the victim of a grappling parry by a stronger, heavier foe. If he can’t escape, either through a Change Position maneuver, or a follow-up grapple or lock, he’s rapidly going nowhere fast, even with a foe with a crippled leg.

I was reading a post where someone was trying to introduce the concept of Technical Grappling to their group, but in a simplified and streamlined way. This is something I endorse.

One of the things that works fairly well in terms of end result but not everyone (including me, on some days) fully embraces is that in order to do damage to someone using a technique that’s resolved as a (usually Quick) Contest, you must first spend CP, then roll the Contest. Your damage is limited to the CP spent or your margin of victory, whichever is less.

The guts of the mechanic are simple. If you have grabbed someone really well, you can hurt them a whole lot – but you still have to apply your technique correctly, and your foe must fail to counter. Thus the conflict of Control Points (which are deferred injury, in theory and practice) with the margin of victory on the Contest.

However, if you lose, you lose the CP you spent, with no damage. So you don’t get something for nothing, trying to inflict damage has a risk. 


For certain grappling moves, this makes a certain amount of sense. If you’re trying to make someone submit, or break their arm, using an arm bar, if your attempt fails, perhaps your foe wriggled out a bit, or you otherwise gave an opening. You can get that control back, but you’ll have to work for it for a few seconds. 

If you want to apply injury repeatedly, you can wind up in a spend/recover/spend-recover cycle. Again, for a series of discrete injuries this need not be narratively jarring.

For other moves, the spend/recover paradigm is less satisfactory story-wise, and is harder to wrap your brain around. In a proper choke hold, for example, as shown to the right, it’s easy to wrap your mind around achieving that position and just putting the squeeze on. If your foe doesn’t do anything, he’s going lights-out. If he fights back, well, isn’t that best represented by attacks to break free? 

To a certain extent, no. Any given attempt to apply (in this case, with a blood choke) Fatigue Points of damage can be foiled by technique, position, and struggle . . . to a certain degree. Of course, that is represented by the defender winning his quick contest. OK, booyah. But you’re not really grabbing anyone less tightly if you win that Contest as the aggressor, and it’s theoretically possible to do a few choke holds in a row to apply FP damage, and as a result basically have no grapple at all. 

In short, you must spend and re-acquire in order to maintain some sort of hold, and while in the end, this works (you’ll choke someone into unconsciousness in roughly the right number of seconds), the herky-jerky nature of any given roll has drawn some criticism which is not undeserved.

The Roll Damage Option


There are a couple other ways you can look at this, of course. One is that the strength of your grip is naturally limited to your Trained ST anyway, and so how many CP you’ve achieved is a proxy for how much of your full power you can apply to your grappling moves.  So if you win your contest, you can apply some damage based on the number of CP you’ve applied.

There’s a precedent for this in the RAW method of applying damage, in a way. Wrench (Limb), on p. 82 of GURPS Martial Arts, follows the same pathway. You must grapple your target. If you’ve grappled him by the limb, you can wrench it. Win a Quick Contest of Wrench (Limb) – which is basically a ST-based technique – and you get to apply your swing crushing damage to the foe.

OK, let’s borrow that. For grappling moves that apply injury in the form of a Quick Contest and based on Margin of Victory (damaging arm locks and chokes/strangles, for example, or resolving Wrench Limb using TG – see p. 42), instead of being forced to spend CP, look up how many CP you have as if it were ST, on the Damage Table on p. B16. Roll swing damage based on that figure. 

I’m tempted to say roll thrust, but that’s a really, really small amount of damage. On the other hand, you aren’t giving up much by making the attempt. Perhaps some moves (like chokes, and bear hugs) would be thrust, while others (like locks and wrenches) could be swing. Again: how does it work in Actual Play?

Spending CP Anyway


No reason that you can’t also spend Control Points if you wish, for the usual reasons. Spend ’em to further lower your foe’s chance of winning the Contest for that moment (but apply damage based on what’s left, not the original total).

Also no reason not to allow spending CP to directly increase, one-for-one, the damage rolled. If you want to go all-out and give your foe room to maneuver to apply injury, go right ahead.

Critical Hits


One of the principles of Technical Grappling is that a lot of these contests not only have to be won, but you have to succeed your roll also. It’s not good enough to fail by less than your foe for many things (not so for others – see the book for details). 

So if you are using the Roll Damage option, and especially if you’re only rolling thrust rather than swing, if the attacker rolls a critical success on his part of the contest and wins, double the resulting damage. 

Joint Locks


Is all the Roll Damage rule option does, really, for many moves is restore the status quo. You roll a contest, and if you win, you roll damage – swing damage in the case of Wrench Limb or Neck Snap. 

So what’s the benefit of the Arm Lock? I’d give it the same as in the text: the attempts to apply damage are completely passive and count as a free action on your turn (though you still must win the Contest). Wrench (Limb) counts as an attack, consuming your turn.

That’s also going to be the difference between Choke Hold and Head Lock, even if used for the same purposes (to allow inflicting injury or FP using the Contest described in Choke or Strangle (p. B370): Choke Holds are your entire attack. Head Locks passively choke the guy out on your turn, allowing you do other things – including attack to achieve more CP to either make your foe less able to win the Contest for damage, or to spend and choke him out even faster.

Parting Shot

I like rolling dice for effects. I think the damage roll is one of the fun bits of tension in any RPG. 

I also think that grappling should always be as tightly integrated with the core mechanics of a game as possible. Technical Grappling claims to do this by replacing some of the usual grappling rules with the same attack-defend-effect trio used for striking.

While this alternate rule doesn’t replace the Quick Contest with an attack-defense pair, it does take a step back towards rules that are found all over the Basic Set and Martial Arts: win the Contest, and if you win, you get an effect roll.

Adding the concept of having to not only make your skill roll, but also win the contest (that’s Quick Contests and Technical Grappling, p. 11), there’s the opportunity to overachieve by  rolling a crit, and thus doing extra yummy damage. Since spending CP can only lower your foe’s chances of success, not raise yours, there’s no false economy of spending CP in order to help get a critical hit. You’re either good enough, or you’re not.

I think playtesting would be required to determine whether you need to roll on the thrust or swing table for damage. But there are a lot of “roll swing damage” in Basic/MA anyway, and since you have to earn enough CP to get to a high damage roll, my gut it telling me swing.

In a realistic game, if you (for example) grapple your foe’s arm for 4 CP (a slightly above average roll against a Trained ST of 14, which is 1d), you could theoretically apply Wrench Arm to apply injury. But with only 4 CP, you’re rolling vs. ST 4, which is 1d-4, and you can definitely roll 0! So 2/3 of the time, it’s worthless, which will encourage you to improve your grip or position.

The act of applying an arm lock applies CP in and of itself, so let’s say that you wind up with 7 CP (the average roll on 1d, twice). You are now rolling 1d-2, but it’s a free action on the beginning of each turn that you have your foe locked.

I’ll have to think more about this, but I kinda like it.

“Slicing the Pie” is a term for moving around a corner with a ready firearm, so as not to get plugged by enemies lurking too close. It exposes only a small amount of potential firing line at a time, in order to reduce the burden on the slicer’s threat perception. It is slow, requires some room to move, but a lot safer than having a bad guy drill you from your rear arc.

If I recall correctly, Agent Starling learns this the hard way in a quick cut scene from Silence of the Lambs.


The technique gets a bit of love on pp. 23-24 of GURPS Tactical Shooting, by +Hans-Christian Vortisch

The Problem


I was lead playtester for the book, and so I do have some (but not extensive) idea of what went on in carving up the rules. Being friends with both Sean and Hans, I also am able to ask questions pretty freely. Anyone is, really, and these guys are both prone to answering polite questions promptly.

Anyway, there was a bit of thread necromancy about a question that came up first nearly three years ago. The user Ultraviolet phrases it well, so I’ll just paste it here:

In a situation where a tactical team is sweeping a building and a shooter is ‘slicing the pie’

Am I correct in assuming this is excecuted as one step per round at a time? So one step, roll to spot (or it may be automatic succes) and the shooter may shoot if there is a target, but does not shoot if there is none. He announces in advance if he wants to evaluate before firing, for -2 to-hit. 

If there is an enemy with a Wait he may also shoot, and this is the time to roll Quick contests to see who shoots first, right?

But if there is an enemy without a Wait, you just shot him?If there is no target you take another step in the same round?

This sounds almost like a Move-and-Wait manoeuvre, but there is no such a thing?

The alternative would be to declare a Move-and Attack right? To rush in and shoot if anybody is there. An enemy with a Wait may very well shoot faster than you. So it is not recommended unless you’re in a hurry!

But can you declare this and *not* shoot if there is no target? Is this similar to the -2 for evaluate? To say “I rush in and shoot at any target whatsoever, but if there is none then naturally I don’t shoot”?

He’s right – there’s officially no such thing as Step and Wait. Wait only allows movement as part of whatever action your Wait turns into, and it’s pretty explicit about that on p. B366: you may only turn a Wait into an All-Out Attack, Attack, Feint, or Ready.

The questions above did get an answer: Sean meant to allow Step-and-Wait to have an official nod, and he recalls giving such permission. The text strongly implies that pie slicing is done with a series of either Step-and-All-Out Attack (Determined) or Step-and-Wait, which will be transformed into All-Out Attack (Determined) if you see a valid target.

Why All-Out? It’s one of the assumptions of Tactical Shooting – if you’re using your sights (Aim or not) you are taking an All-Out Attack (Determined), and with a handgun you get +1 for Determined, and if you’re using a two-handed grip, you get +1 for Braced.
The support for the “Step-and-Wait” decision can be found in two posts by +Sean Punch: here where I post the email he sent me, and this this amplification.

The Text

When the process is described in Tactical Shooting under Turning Corners (“Slicing the Pie”), it’s done mostly descriptively, in a conversational method that is suitable for both tactical combat on a hex map or more open-form combat. 

The lack of explicit mention of Step-and-Wait has caused no small amount of consternation over on the GURPS Forums in the previously mentioned thread. Much of it is from what’s not said, rather than what is said, in the text. One of the more obvious examples:

If someone is lurking around the corner, he may use Opportunity Fire (p. B390) if he took a Wait maneuver. If neither of you chose to Wait, you both roll as above but as a Quick Contest; the winner acts first and a tie means truly simultaneous actions! (Tactical Shooting, p. 24)

So it covers the implicit case that you do Step-and-Attack, and he’s Waiting. It covers the case where neither of you have declared a Wait, but the results of the action are resolved in a very similar manner as a Cascading Wait (GURPS Martial Arts, p. 108).

Without quoting the entire section, though, here’s the summary of each paragraph.

  • Slicing the pie trades lateral movement and time in exchange for purposefully limiting the exposure to potential bad guys around a corner.
  • Start far away, and step sideways with a bit of rotation, weapon pointed at the corner. Some cover is provided by the corner for both you and any potential targets.
  • You may attack as soon as you detect a target. This involves a Perception roll, explicitly for the person clearing the corner.
  • If there’s a foe there, and he has a Wait, he can shoot at you with Opportunity Fire (p. B390). If nether of you have a wait, you roll a Quick Contest to see who sees whom, and whomever wins acts first[1]. There are some modifiers for the usual situations of target ID, useful Advantages, etc.
  • Lather, rinse, repeat . . . step by step until you can see the entire corridor.
So, that’s more or less it. 
Still, even this has a couple of real questions.
I put a footnote [1] where the first comes up. If A is doing a Step-and-Attack, which seems to be the case in the above, and the foe isn’t Waiting, well, usually that means he’s screwed. This is, in fact, an artifact of the normal GURPS turn sequence, and can be interpreted as follows, in my opinion:
  • If you have a case where the bad guy is just standing around, then he is, in fact screwed. Go ahead and roll for Per to see if he notices you at all, but he can’t shoot back. Seeing you pop around the corner may even trigger Surprise of some sort, partial or total. If that’s the case, he may not even get an active defense.
  • If the bad guy is not standing around, but is currently acting in some part of a combat turn sequence and his prior maneuver choice has been defined as anything other than a Wait (he’d been shooting at someone, or was moving from A to B), again he’s screwed, as he may well see you (roll Per for that), but his action was already declared. He may, however, Dodge and Drop or perform any other active defense allowed by his prior maneuver choice.
  • If the bad guy had declared a Wait, you just moved into it, triggered it, and he gets to go first.
  • If the bad guy’s move is sort of indeterminate, then the Quick Contest of perception-based abilities makes for exciting play. You roll to see who gets the advantage and that person may get the drop on the other.
All of that assumes that the guy slicing the pie is, in fact, doing an All-Out Attack (Determined), with a single step.

Even that has an issue, that a Step-and-Attack means that if you walk into the corridor and no one is there, your turn is over with no attack launched. If a bad guy then walks into the corridor on his turn, ready to act, he can gun you down . . . despite that having someone in your field of view to shoot is exactly the point.

Both issues are artifacts, again, of the GURPS turn system.
Some Useful Penalties

Before we get into things more, and discuss the possibility of Step-and-Attack/Wait, let’s first note some already-established penalties.
  • If you do Move and Attack with a ranged weapon, and take more than a step, you are penalized by -2 or the weapon’s Bulk, whichever is worse.
  • Shooting through light cover, or partly exposed: -2.
  • Opportunity Fire: Check target before firing is -2
  • Hexes watched: 0 if one hex, -1 for two particular hexes, -2 for a straight line of fire or 3-4 hexes, and penalties up to -5 the more hexes you watch.
  • Pop-up Attack: -2, no Aim possible.
  • Committed Attack: an extra -2 to actions if you take an extra step as part of an attack.
These are more to set the stage for what follows than anything else. Modifiers in kind to things that will come up.
One more thing: the hexes watched penalty progression would be cleaner/easier using the Size and Speed/Range progression. So for hexes watched, use this instead:
  • 1 hex: no penalty
  • 2 hexes: -1
  • 3 hexes or a line: -2
  • 5 hexes: -3
  • 7 hexes: -4
  • 10 hexes: -5
  • 15 hexes: -6
Unusually for GURPS, don’t apply additional penalties unless you hit the next stage. 4 hexes is still -2; 9 hexes is still -4. This basically matches the progression on p. B548 anyway.
What’s really missing here is a method for a character to declare an action with a bit of persistence. It’s not a full Wait, where the only thing you’re doing is hanging out until the condition is triggered.
So, borrowing from a few of the prior concepts . . . 
Step and Wait

This maneuver allows a usually-forbidden step to the Wait maneuver. Much like Committed Attack, doing so imparts a blanket -2 penalty to DX and IQ to actions following the step. This definitely includes any rolls to resolve Cascading Waits. (This does mean active defenses are at -1, if allowed at all by your maneuver choice).
You must declare what the trigger will be, as well as what you will be converting your attack into: Attack, Committed Attack, or All-Out Attack, or Move and Attack, and what kind, if there are options (Determined, Strong, etc.). Furthermore, that initial step does come out of the movement allowance for the chosen maneuver. So if you’re doing AoA(Determined) and half your current encumbered Move is 3, you may only take 2 more steps after your Wait is triggered.
And again: if you choose Step and Wait/All-Out Attack, you may not use any active defenses until your next turn. You’re hanging your attack with a trigger, not leaving your options open. You’ve already decided what to do, just not when.
For skilled people, that -2 will be a pretty minor impediment, and Step-and-Wait/Attack or Step-and-Wait/Committed Attack or – as is directly pertinent to the case at hand – Step and Wait/All-Out Attack (Determined) may seem like a no-lose option. Perhaps that’s so, but many options in GURPS require narrative resolution only after all prior actions of all parties have been resolved (this is the case for unlimited dodges vs. multiple foes, as the best example), so putting a “beat” between your movement and your aggression shouldn’t break anything, and may well prevent some of the more egregious turn-order-artifact issues that crop up.
Slicing the Pie, Revisited

Now that that’s settled, we can revisit explicitly a stepwise resolution for turning corners. Ultimately, this is a three-step process on each turn. The resolution here assumes the use of a tactical map. The progression is basically declaration and movement, perception, then shoot.
Declaration and Movement
  • Declare your intent to Step and then Wait/Pick your maneuver.
  • Take a Step and any angular rotation that you need. This reveals a certain additional “slice” of the target zone.
Perception
  • Any combatants that may now be capable of seeing each other immediately roll a Quick Contest based on sensory acuity. This can be Perception, or Per-based Guns, Per-based Melee Weapon skill, Per-based Soldier, or Per-based Tactics; use the best relevant skill. 
    • If you did Step-and-Wait rather than Step-and-[some sort of]Attack, this is at -2. 
    • Make a separate roll for each combatant pair! If you slice the pie and find three targets exposed, you will resolve three Quick Contests.
  • If the Per roll fails, you are unaware of that individual[1] and may not defend against his attacks nor attack him until your next turn[2].
  • If the Per roll succeeds, you’re aware of the target, and may attack and defend as allowed by your maneuver choice.
Shoot

  • The winner of any individual Quick Contest goes first if Cascading Waits are involved, resolved in descending Margin of Victory
  • Now resolve any shooting. You’re still at -2 for the held action, -2 for light cover, plus any other appropriate penalties for lighting, target location, target posture, etc.
  • When slicing the pie, you will engage targets (or check fire, if they’re a friendly) as you sweep them. Angle first, then distance (see Engagement Order, below). If you’re in a John Woo movie or a SFOD-D operator and you’re engaging more than one target per second, you may have additional penalties.
Target Discrimination and Standing Around Like an Idiot

The tricky part of the resolution is probably the perception roll resolution. The method of engaging targets is pretty well fixed.
Engagement Order

As mentioned in the text of Tactical Shooting, slicing the pie draws a line from you, the shooter, to the corner that you’re moving around. As you slice the pie, you will resolve and engage targets as they become visible, not take a mighty step, resolve all threats and mentally prioritize them, and take them down in your chosen order. 
Slicing the Pie Incorrectly – Too Close 1
No. You sweep the line from where you were to where you are, and resolve in that order. If you have two on the same angle, shoot the closer one first.
Slicing the Pie Incorrectly – Too Close 2
As an example, as shown in “Too Close 1,” hugging the wall means when taking the indicated step, both A and B become visible. However, even though B is closer (and thus likely easier to hit), the engagement order is A, then B, and both will suffer the -2 for partial cover, since they are covered by the corner as each is exposed in turn.
For another example, in Too Close 2, the engagement order would be A, then C, then B. A because he’s exposed first, and C because he’s closer then B.
With proper distance, stepping away from the wall instead of along it, you can force sequential revelation of A, then B, then C in Too Close 1.
Identify Friend or Foe

When conducting opportunity fire, you usually accept a -2 penalty to your Per-based rolls to identify a target as friend or foe. I suggest making this implicit, rather than explicit, in the Quick Contests of Per. If you make your Per roll by (say) 2 or more, you get friend/foe information. One could also allow both: take a voluntary -2 to look for friend/foe discrimination, but if you make the roll by 4 or more, you get it anyway.
If the GM is giving large bonuses to Per to prevent “I walked right by the guy 2 yards from me” outcomes (below), having IFF require an margin of 6+ isn’t a bad call.
Standing Like A Dork

It’s possible that as you slice a pie, both your foe and the shooter will fail their Per rolls. While that may seem perverse, this is not a sand-table exercise. This is a real engagement with scary people on both sides trying to kill each other. It is entirely possible that the Per rolls will fail, and then what? 
Keep it simple. If your Per roll fails, your Wait isn’t triggered. You don’t engage the target. If you both have failed, just keep going in the turn order.
If you have a VTT like Fantasy Grounds, MapTool, or Roll20 that supports invisible guys, what you can easily do as GM is simply not reveal any foes for whom Per rolls were failed. A shooter can slice the pie and breeze right by a foe, unaware. Happens all the time, and it’s why there’s teams of SWAT guys. 
If that’s simply incredible, the GM can assign large bonuses to all Per rolls, up to the +10 for In Plain Sight, and then the only real thing that will matter is the Margin of Victory, not whether the Contest is Won/Lost at all. That makes target recognition (and the larger margin mentioned earlier) the key bit. The margin required could also vary by how much the friends and foes look alike. If all the foes and (say) hostages are wearing the same clothing, then you’ll want to succeed by (say) 10-Bulk of any weapons in play! This will likely require GM judgement. 
Parting Shot

By introducing Step-and-Wait into the situation, all pie-slicing is pretty much going to be the same. You declare your action – Step-and-Wait/All-Out Attack (Determined) will be popular using the TS rules – and your trigger is usually going to be “shoot the first enemy that sweeps into view.”
Then as you step, resolve QCs of perception-based skills to figure out who sees who.
Only in the case of a Cascading Wait will the order of attacks flop around, but the Per rolls are important to resolve surprise and/or the ability to take active defenses. The Per rolls can also establish friend/foe information.
Then shoot, resolved in an appropriate order. 
After the Shot

One possibility is that skilled shooters may well wish to engage more than one target at a time. In that case, first figure out how many targets can be engaged (in Too Close 2, for example, it’s all 3), and then apply the Ranged Rapid Strike penalties to all shots, but not Per rolls, for simplicity. 
It should be noted that this is where the pros from Dover shine. Spending the 6 points required to buy off Quick Shot to two attacks with full skill will allow two targets to be engaged per foe.
Many on Many, Combat Evolving

As more and more combatants are both coming around the corner (a squad of PCs clearing a room) and being engaged as targets, the situation can get pretty hairy fast. Not just for the characters, but for the GM. The TS protocol of forcing All-Out Attacks for sighted shooting is your friend here, since as combatants emerge from doorways and hallways, you can more or less ignore defenses. 
Still, for expert shooters using point shooting techniques, defenses are possible. So might multiple shots that you can’t know about ahead of time! It may be the case that the pie-slicer does Step-and-Wait/AoA(Determined) and engages one bad guy, only to have a second step out from a doorway. 
In that case, the GM can either say “too bad,” and have the Waiting character’s turn over or allow the Wait to continue, but slap on a penalty of -3 to -6 that can’t be bought off with Quick Shot, plus the usual penalties for Ranged Rapid Strike on multiple targets. 

Once again, my creativity is roused somewhat by a thread on the forums. This one’s on snakes and grappling.

One might imagine that I have something to say on this, being the GURPS grappling guy. One would be right.

The Raw Way (mostly)


If you have a snake that attacks by constriction, you have a snake that wants to make grappling attacks. While RAW I believe can be construed to allow a torso-based grapple if you have Constriction Attack and Double Jointed (see Martial Arts, p. 116), I would smack such legalisms on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper.

The snake first bites to grapple. This is a grappling attack with the mouth. You have to look for it, but a bit is a one-handed grapple (MA, p. 115 in the box for Teeth). You attack at full location penalties. If your foe fails to defend, you have him by the mouth with the equivalent of one hand. You also do thrust-1 damage. The foe is, technically, “grappled” at this point, and at -4 to DX . . . but the one-handed nature of the attack makes it easier to break free.

The next chance you get, you can follow up with the body grapple, and this one is at full ST, considered a two-handed grapple. I don’t know offhand if real snakes let go with the mouth once they have constricted the prey, but in any case, I’d just treat the snake as having its full ST.

Once that grapple occurs, the snake will apply his Constriction Attack, using the Bear Hug technique (MA, p. 117) to crush the foe to death. If the foe is too large to simply crush, the snake will suffocate if it can.

Seems to me that many snakes will actually buy a Combination (MA, p. 80) to bite and grapple with the torso as a bought-off Rapid Strike. I’ve seen video of ball pythons doing their thing, and that “bite and wrap it up” thing is fast.


Technical Grappling


There’s actually an entry on p. 44 for Constrictor Snakes. Bite to grapple and do thr-1 Control Points (1d-1 for the python in the Basic Set). Follow up with another grapple (using the snake’s inherent Wrestling skill, which is not bad) using the body, but Constriction Attack does double the usual CP for that creature’s ST. Since a python is ST 13, that’s 2d CP, which will get even a reasonably strong adventurer in trouble in a few seconds.

Once enough CP are accumulated, the snake will begin the process of spending them to crush the victim, then re-acquiring them through a grapple, then spending them for more crushing.

This is not the most elegant mechanic, though it does the trick. +Peter V. Dell’Orto and I did come up with a better one. Hopefully one day it will see daylight.

Condition-Based TG


I introduced a quick-and-dirty alternate for using Control Points but not bringing in all of TG late in July called Condition-based grappling, which took a concept that could have been done better in the DnD Basic Rules (5e) and did in GURPS what I thought could have been done (and maybe will be or has been in the PHB and DMG; we’ll see when they come out) in that system.

In any case, it’s easy. Roll for the bite. Assess CP. As soon as you can, roll for more CP by attacking with the torso. When you have your foe Restrained, start crushing.

Parting Shot


The condition-based grappling could use some expansion for stuff that’s not just holding on and applying penalties. The Control Point mechanic can be leveraged in a few easy ways to execute various grappling techniques without the detailed tracking that the full system has.

But all in all, snakes and other grappling monsters – such as something with, say, ST 21 tentacles with gripping mouths on them! – can and should be terrifying in GURPS. Right now they can be somewhat meh.


I think that TG really shines for such critters. That ST 21 bite will do 2d CP right off the bat, and that tentacle with Constriction Attack will accumulate 4d CP with every attack (and it may well AoA(Double) for 8d CP each turn; an average of 28 CP per second), which is enough to hit the max CP threshold for most creatures. With the right skills, that is a huge amount of crushing damage every turn.

Anyway, the rules are a bit scattered for both RAW and TG; you have to look through three books (or at least two, Campaigns and Martial Arts, with the third being Characters) even in RAW.

Maybe something to add to +Mook Wilson‘s handy new GM Guide. Or volume 2 . . .



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! 

GURPS Technical Grappling introduced the concept of Trained ST, which is a skill-specific boost to ST provided by repetitive muscle coordination. The principle of the thing is that the more you practice something, the better you can coordinate your power to achieve greater equivalent power.

This makes tons of sense for weapon use (something like the Weapon Master damage bonus), is already in place for unarmed striking skills, and was already in place for unarmed grapples as well. The Strongbow perk is basically Trained ST for archers.

Gun Fu


At some point, skill does not overcome ST

During a discussion over the last week, it occurred to me that it would be reasonable to extend this to firearms, with more skill in Guns (Whatever) allowing an increase in the allowed ST of the shooter.

As per usual, to prevent craziness (my ST 5 person can shoot a gun with ST 10 required because he’s at DX+10!), I recommend reading the Trained ST table as providing a percentage boost  (round normally) to ST, rather than a flat add. That being said, for human-normal scaling (ST 8-20 or so), the flat-add table works fine. It only hurts a bit at the very low end, and doesn’t give a commensurate boost at high ST, but it’s fine.

Trained ST Progression

Still, the question really is “what progression should be used?” Slow, Average, or Fast?

Original Caption: “Proper grip helps control recoil”

Well, Guns is a DX/Easy skill. So at 2 points spent, you’d earn your first +1 on the trained ST table with the Fast progression. Average would be 4 points, and Slow would be 12 points.

3 points gets a +1 to Lifting ST, and 5 nets a point of Striking ST. Of course, regular full-on ST is 10 points.

I think the Average progression is a good compromise. You’d get a decent bonus for moderate training (+1 or +10% to ST with 4 points invested at DX+2), but will still need to sink a total of 12 in to get another +1 at DX+4. So a ST 9 person can fire a M1911 with practice (and that feels right to me), but that same person is going to need to get to DX+7 for 24 points spent to hande a Desert Eagle using flat adds. To go from ST 9 to ST 12 would be even more expensive using the percentage boost, since to get to ST 12 you’d need +40%, not +30%, which would be at DX+10, for 60 points invested in Guns.

Parting Shot


For those that wish to do so, adding Trained ST to the game using Guns skills probably won’t break anything. I recommend using the percentage add to ST method for this, and further suggest the Average Trained ST progression.

Over on the forums, a poster was asking about single use versions of skill and asked about Break Free, as an action after a grapple. Naturally Technical Grappling came up, and aesir23 pointed out that Break Free was a technique that could be bought up with Technique Mastery.

Honestly, I’d forgotten about that.

But it’s true, and my reply engendered this thought: what is the best way to be a striker, but also shed grapples like a fiend?

The Basics


A couple things to think about here. How you fight, and what you have to be good at to get out of a grapple.


What kind of striker are you?


Obviously you have three options. Boxing, Brawling, and Karate. As +Sean Punch points out, the best way for a striker to shed a grapple is to not get grappled. This is simply a good Parry or Dodge, and includes hands-free counters to such moves, which are cool (TG, p. 22).

If you’re going to focus on getting out of grapples, though, there is Brawling, and then there’s Karate/Boxing. Brawling has a lot of grappling-oid stuff thrown in, and uses the Average progression for Trained ST; Karate and Boxing use the slow progressions. So Brawling is better for the sake of shedding grapples as a striker.

How to break a grapple?


Break Free in Technical Grappling (TG, p. 35) is no longer a contest of skill. Instead you attack the grapple itself, which requires a skill roll, penalized for being grappled, followed by an effect roll – basically a kind of roll for damage – which is also penalized for the quality of the grapple being maintained on you. 

All things being equal, though, you need to be both skilled and strong in order to break free. So as high a skill to get out as possible, and that skill is either DX or a “real” grappling skill. Then once you succeed in that skill roll, you need to have as high an effective ST as possible, to get the best possible effect roll.

The Cheat


OK, it’s not really a cheat. An Exploit, maybe. But one fully enabled by the rules – if you can convince your GM to do it.

The Combination of Awesome


The rules already endorse things like “Judo Throw defaults to Shield” or “Judo Throw defaults to Axe/Mace” as a Skill Adaptation perk, again if you can convince the GM it’s OK. The one you want here is “Break Free defaults to [My Striking Skill of Choice].”

Break Free, of course, is a kind of technique-that-isn’t, much like Judo Throw. it’s a skill that defaults to your DX or grappling skill, and can’t be increased beyond that skill . . . again, just like Judo Throw.

The trick comes in where you toss in another perk, this time Technique Mastery, which allows skills such as these to rise to up to Default+4.

The key, then, to shedding grapples with a one-skill wonder is to pay these 2 points, and then max out your Break Free technique for another 4 points. 

So now you’re at Striking Skill + 4 for the purposes of Breaking Free only. This will definitely impact your Trained ST.

Karate or Boxing


Let’s assume a reasonably competent warrior. We spend 30 points on ST 13, 40 points on DX 12, and score Karate-16 or Boxing-17 for another 20 points. Toss in 6 more for getting to skill+4 at Breaking Free and you’ve just sunk 96 points into ST, DX, and one skill. Of course, striker or grappler, you’re going to want ST even higher than that if you can afford it. But for the sake of this example, I’ve just burned nearly 100 points to create my one-skill wonder.

He’s got either

  • ST 13, DX 12, and Boxing-17 (DX+5), Break Free-21 (DX+9), or
  • ST 13, DX 12, and Karate-16 (DX+4), Break Free-20 (DX+8)

Karate


Let’s start with the more likely of the two for many games. The Karate Kid has ST 13, and well more than the Karate at DX+1 required to give him his +2 per die bonus to ST, yielding 1d+1 punching damage. Karate uses the slow progression, but his Break Free still gives +2 to Trained ST, yielding Trained ST 15 and 1d+1 CP removed on a successful Break Free. That’s not bad at all. The high base Karate skill gives Karate Parry-11, Parry-14 if you retreat, and no extra penalties vs. weapons, but you take penalties if you’re encumbered.

Boxing


Honestly, not much different than Karate. The Boxing Boy has ST 13, and also earns +2 per die bonus to damage, yielding 1d+1 punching damage but only 1d kicking. Boxing uses the slow progression, but his Break Free still gives +2 to Trained ST, yielding Trained ST 15 and 1d+1 CP removed on a successful Break Free. That’s not bad at all. The high base Boxing skill gives Boxing Parry-11, Parry-14 if you retreat. No encumbrance penalties (handy if you’re fighting in armor or just heavily laden), but penalties to defend against weapons or kicks. 

Brawling


Brawling is interesting because while it’s less “sophisticated” than the other striking skills, it’s an Easy skill, and also uses the Average progression. That same 20 points in Brawling gives Brawling-18 (DX+6) and Break Free-22 (DX+10). You punch and kick at +1 per die, which is a punch at 1d, but DX+10 on the Average progression is +4 to Trained ST, which is 1d+2 CP removed per successful attack.

Striking Summarized


All of these guys are one-trick grapplers, able to shed grapples with aplomb. They can absorb some pretty hefty DX penalties due to being grappled and still have a 16 net skill (handy for the 6 or less to critically hit). Even the Karate Kid can get hit with -4 to DX and do this, which is a fairly good initial grapple (the point being to shed them as soon as they’re applied). The Brawler can absorb that same -4 to DX and lay on a Deceptive Attack for -2 to hit, -1 to your foe’s defenses. Since your foe will need to do something like 8 CP to inflict this much of a penalty, which requires Trained ST of over 17 to even think about doing in one round, you will have a credible defense against that first grapple.

Limited, but very credible.

Real Grappling for Real Defense?


The other way to break out of a grapple is to actually have a grappling skill, of course. The best bets here are going to be Wrestling (good for locks and throws from locks, plus your basic grapple and takedown stuff), or the much ignored Sumo Wrestling.

The interesting thing about Sumo, of course, is that it’s primary bonuses are to slams and shoves . . . which are strikes, not grapples. That makes it an ideal pairing for a striking skill, and it also uses the fast progression for trained ST, which can add up darned quick.

Still, given “only” 26 points to spend between striking and Sumo . . . is it ever “better” to split your points?

Let’s see.

How Much Sumo?


Well, that will depend on the striking skill it’s paired with. Boxing and Karate both hit Trained ST 15 with the perks applied, and that requires DX+2 in Sumo, or Sumo-14, for 8 points. That leaves 18 for the main skill, which can only really use 16 of them. Boxing-16 or Karate 15. Toss in an extra point into the pool, and with Technique Mastery and Break Free at +2, you even get another point of Trained ST. 

So for 97 points, you can get

  • ST 13, DX 12, Sumo Wrestling-14, Break Free-16, Boxing-16. Trained ST 16, 1d+1 CP.
  • ST 13, DX 12, Sumo Wrestling-14, Break Free-16, Karate-15, Trained ST 16, 1d+1 CP.

Why would you ever do this? You’ve lost 5-6 points of the ability to break free!

I won’t argue dual-skill is better, but it certainly does give some options. For one, Sumo is a prime skill for takedowns, sweeps, shoves, and slams, all of which will be rolled considering Trained ST 16 and Sumo-14. That +2 Training Bonus adds to slam and shove damage too. It also gives an opening to grappling-based position changes, using your Trained ST to try an obtain a favorable arc within a grapple to strike (slither into your foe’s side arc, and nail him at -2 to defend etc.) – which requires a grappling skill. It also gives access to Escaping Parry at 8-, which isn’t great, but you can’t even try it with a striking skill. Likewise for Grabbing Parry, which would set up a Grab-and-Smash rather well, turning an excellent CP roll into an even higher striking damage roll. 

Finally, if you just need to grab someone, you’re not half-bad at it. Sumo Wrestling-14 and 1d+1 CP is nothing to sneeze at, and if bludgeoning someone into pudding isn’t a desired outcome (say, you’ll get arrested, or you’ve got an ally you need to subdue but not damage), your next best option after striking is . . . DX 12.

Parting Shot


If all you really care about is breaking free of a grapple, then the one-skill wonder is probably your best build. With Break Free at anywhere from 20-22, you’re very, very good at this, and if your striking parry fails, you will have a great chance of removing significant control each turn, though you can never really establish much on your own (DX 12, 1d CP instead of Sumo-14, 1d+1 CP).

The “balanced” build sacrifices a bit of striking (but not much; just a point) for a lower roll to Break Free, higher CP if you do break free, but a much more rounded set of combative options.

But Maybe Not


Skill Adaptation requires a lot of judgment, and allows taking some core moves and shifting skills with them. With Skill Adaptation (Break Free defaults to striking skill X), you’re basically saying “thanks to this perk, I have none of the usual weaknesses for being a striker.” It would be – and maybe should be – well within the GM’s perview to say “nope, nope, nuh-uh” and just declare that you can’t have this. 

Another way to go is to require this perk more than once, and limit it to specific moves, under the model of Clinch (Martial Arts, p. 51). This allows grapples, but only of the head, neck, or torso of a standing opponent. 

So it would be pretty reasonable to have strikers be good at breaking certain kinds of grapples. Say, you can only use it once on initial contact – sort of an extended version of a parry/sprawl defense. It would be reasonable to be very good at, for example, breaking free of a clinch.

That being said, it would also be kosher to say that your attempts to break free of grapples represent strikes with the elbows, knees, and head that loosen the foe’s grip. Not enough to cause damage, but not requiring a whole body of skill to do it.

Technique Mastery is a definite border case. It’s allowed right there in the rules for Judo Throw – which is so close to the forbidden “core use of the skill” that it’s questionable in its own right. +Peter V. Dell’Orto points out that unlike the Perks version of this ability, it calls out that the technique you’re mastering requires that you “specialize in a technique – commonly a kick or throw – that’s part of your style and appears in Chapter 3 (the GM may make exceptions).”

The fact that Break Free defaults to DX or skill and can’t be improved beyond skill would seem to indicate that it’s in that restricted category . . . but Judo Throw is the same way.

Ultimately, though, what this perk does if you allow it is for five points, you can ignore up to -4 to DX from grapples before you suffer ill effects for applying your ST to get out . . . but note that your ST is still affected by the control points. If you’ve got 8 CP applied to you, you’re usually -4 to ST and DX. This will leave your Break Free at full skill, but you’re still -4 to ST, which is -2 to Control Point rolls. 

That ability to apply full DX against a foe that’s grappling you is somewhat worrisome, though, and did not enter the discussion during playtest (I checked).

In retrospect, I might disallow Technique Mastery on any ability that is so core that it’s usually “defaults to skill, can’t be improved beyond skill.” That includes Judo Throw, Break Free, punching (but not kicking), and Bear Hug, 

Change Position (TG, p. 35) and Force Posture Change (p. 35) would seem to qualify, but they always take penalties due to what you’re doing, and buying off penalties (but still not exceeding base skill) would seem OK here.

The Sprawling Parry would also seem to qualify, but it also seems to me very much like something you can practice. The fact that it defaults to parry at no penalty is likely due to the fact that you’re giving up a lot with the posture change, which is a form of built-in retreat. So I’d allow this one.

Ultimately, as mentioned before, this provides a ludicrously easy way to avoid a core weakness of being a one-trick pony. All strikers would be fools not to take it, which means it’s likely a crock that shouldn’t be allowed. 

That’s not where I thought I’d wind up with this one, but chatting with Peter has convinced me of the truth of it.