A question on reddit had me thinking. It was asking about swinging a sword in a confined environment, one yard wide. Another commenter noted – and I agree – that no, you can’t swing sideways, but you certainly can use the vertical, if the ceiling is tall enough.

Then I thought:

Overhead Strike

Seen very frequenlty in sports swordsmanship such as kendo and variants, this overhead-only strike is treated – always – as a Committed Telegraphic Attack to the skull. At -7 for location and +4 for the Telegraphic and +2 for committed, The blow has the following stats:

  • Roll at Skill-1 to hit; a miss by 1 hits the torso instead (specifically the shoulders if it matters)
  • The defender is at +2 to any active defense used against the attack
  • The attacker may not parry, and is at -2 to block or dodge
  • It does normal swing damage
  • It can be used in narrow confines so long as the ceiling has a height equal to the Reach of the weapon as it’s being employed plus the height of the character

Why do this? Well, for one thing, it’s pretty common to have a set of go-to attacks. For some sports, such as kendo or my own Hwarang Kumtoogi (which adds the legs as targets and spinning strikes), target selection is very limited, and in order to score a point, you usually have to show proper spirit. It’s not enough to simply get the “blade” on someone in a notionally lethal fashion, you have to yell, and stomp, and hit a very particular area with emphasis. Also, the attack is given a lot of emphasis, so something more than Attack might be warranted.
The Committed thing is iffy, but sensible to try and cancel the -7 for hits to the skull; even so, Skill-3 isn’t awful, and you miss an awful lot in kendo. Even if you “hit,” you can miss if your target is off by a bit or your form is off. That depends on the judges, but formal scoring and matches might be on a heck of a lot smaller than -7, maybe even -8 or -9, good enough for maybe a 1″-2″ wide, 3-5″ long stripe on the forehead on the top of the helmet. Advanced judges can be that picky.
The real use here is as part of a short stable of moves that you pre-calculate in order to speed play. While “any strike, any time” has some Bruce Lee-ish charm, it’s better to pick a set of favored attacks that you tend to utilize based on the character’s personality. Mostly, you pick from that set. Sure, sometimes you go off the reservation, but mostly you don’t.
As an example, in Hwarang Kumtoogi, you have standing strikes to the top of the head (-7), forearms (treat as half the arm, or -3), and the belly (treat the target area as -2), and a small patch of protection on the throat that’s maybe 2″ x 3″ square. Let’s call that -8, and you can only thrust. Finally, you can attack the thighs (again at -3) if you strike while kneeling. You will Feint, Feint-and-Attack, or use Setup Attacks to draw your opponent’s guard off. And you may add Spinning Strike to the above. You will often use Telegraphic Attack. You cannot make Telegraphic Deceptive Attacks; the effects of all the blade movement and tricky stuff will be handled as feints. 

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.


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!

There’s a pretty interesting thread over on the forums where someone was asking a bunch of questions about Martial Arts and Technical Grappling. So +Peter V. Dell’Orto and I are both happy.

But one point the author makes is that if you take two fighters, one ridiculously skilled and the other not-so-much, that as awesome as their parries get, their ability to make a non-contact avoidance move never goes up. 

Partly, this is my fault, in that in TG I clarified, and +Sean Punch either agreed or let stand, that if you want to avoid a blow and totally avoid all sorts of contact, you must dodge. In fact, we clarified the hell out of it in Technical Grappling, p. 22

Dodge (see pp. B374-375)

A successful dodge means the attack failed to connect at all.
Dodging is the only way to create a “clean” miss without contact,
important if you want to avoid effects transmitted by
touch, such as some spells, electrical attacks, or cooties.

With that, though, you get the situation that bugs the original poster:

. . . all other things being equal (Say DX 12, HT 12, BS 6, Dodge 9), both Boxers in the above example can dodge the punches from a JKD Guy (Karate-14) at the same exact chance for success:

Boxing-11 guy dodges on a 9 or lower (12 or lower on a retreat)
Boxing-20 guy dodges on a 9 or lower (12 or lower on a retreat)

 So DX 12 is 40 points, HT 12 is 20. Boxing 11 is DX-1, for 1 point. Boxing-20 is DX+8, for 32 points.

Just Buy Enhanced Dodge

There is, of course, Enhanced Dodge, for 15 points per +1. Exchanging some of that extra Boxing skill for dodge would get you (say) Dodge-10 and Boxing-16. Still not too shabby, and a good, balanced fighter.

You might be able to push it, though, and say that your training only gives enhanced Dodge versus melee attacks to the head and torso – the legal attacks in boxing. Bows and arrow, bullets, Muay Thai kicks to the legs? Nuh-uh. 

Maybe that’s 8 per level instead of 15, which would mean that for a very specific set of attacks, you get +2 Dodge instead of +1 for 16 points. Now you’re Boxing-16 and Dodge-11, Dodge-14 with a retreat.

That’s not bad.

Trained . . . Dodge?

Getting a bonus to dodge due to combat skill isn’t crazy talk. A precision eye for reach and distance is one of the trained skills of boxing. 

Hey, did I hear Trained Something?

Let’s see. By the usual Trained ST progression, you get +5 to your ST if you have a skill of DX+10. That will usually cost around 40 points, which is good for +5 to Dodge using my limitations above, but about +2 if you buy enhanced Dodge straight-up. 

Maybe you wind up halving the Trained progression, drop fractions, and adding it to the Melee-only Dodge above, or quartering it for all dodge. So you need to get to DX+7 in Boxing (as an example) and you can pick up +2 to Melee-only Dodge, and (or?) +1 to all Dodge. That’s a maximum of 15 or 16 points of benefit there, which isn’t overpowering.

Non-Contact Parry

Perhaps the simplest way to do this would be to just assume or declare that no, Dodge is not the only way to do a non-contact Parry. Some possibilities would be:

  • If you make your Parry by 3 or more (the equivalent of a fancy retreat), then you have avoided contact on the blow. You still take no damage on a successful parry, but if your foe is throwing Deathtouch or something, you need to either be that good, or back up, or both.
  • All-Out Defense (Non-Contact Parry). If you go full-defensive, you don’t get the +2, but your parries qualify as not making contact this exchange.
  • Telegraphic Defense – again, your parries don’t count as making contact if successful, but your next attack is at -4 due to how much movement you’re putting into your stance. This one’s pretty weak, I admit.

Parting Shot

Well, for one, I’m trying to get back into actual GURPS content posts now that VR is winding down. 

But it struck me that the poster on the thread had a legit point, and telling a player what is basically “hey, for every point you spend in Boxing, reserve a point for Enhanced Dodge” might not be well received . . . even if it’s accurate. 

GURPS already gives perhaps too little credit to overall spatial awareness for fighters crossing over disciplines. I could easily see using something like the Trained ST progression to give a skill-based bonus to Dodge, either from your best skill, or perhaps using the skill that’s thrown at you. So boxers dodge punches with their Boxing Trained Dodge, but kicks using Brawling or Karate if they have it. You’d need some sort of weapon skill to get Trained Dodge from a weapon.

But the notion of having so many points dumped into a combat skill floating some of that bonus to Dodge? Not crazed. After all, the damage bonus one gets for Boxing or Karate is up to +2 points per die of damage – the equivalent of about a 60% boost to ST. Getting a defensive benefit either in addition to, or in lieu of, the offensive boost has a certain amount of logic to it. 

One interesting thing struck me from the previous post, especially when one considers the often-repeated admonition that just because you have located your miniature figure on a hex-map in a given spot, doesn’t mean that you’re sitting in the middle of that hex at all times. In fact, you’re probably anywhere in it.

Evil Math?

So, what does that imply? It means that if the middle of the hex is “zero,” then you can be anywhere between -0.5 and +0.5 yards. Tack on the length of a kick, and you’re from 0.5 yards to 1.5 yards. Basically, you cover the entirety of your adjacent hex (0.5 to 1.5 from the center of your own). So no problems with Reach 1 for kicks!

But with punches, you have a situation where your normal reach will vary from +0.2 yards treating the arm as 0.7 yards) to 1.2 yards. Hrm. That’s a little short, but the foe’s hex is about 70% covered.

You should be able to punch into his hex. Maybe not reliably, but it should be possible. And it shouldn’t require, necessarily, a Step.

Is it?

The Usual Suspects

There are longer-reach options on the books already. Interestingly, none of them are in the Basic Set, but are covered in Martial Arts.

All-Out Attack (Long) (MA p. 97) : This lets you perform a full-extension jump or lunge. A full extra yard is added to your Reach. There’s a damage penalty for swing attacks. This doesn’t feel quite right.

Committed Attack (MA, p. 99-100): This one’s better, but you have to work for it. There’s no Committed Attack (Long) option, but you can do an attack with two steps, and those steps can be forward and then back. So Committed Attack (Determined), but with two steps (one out, one back) works out to be an attack at full skill that has an extra yard of reach, but at -2 to defend (and you can’t parry with the hand(s) used to attack). This is probably a good fit.

That’s about it for formal options.

Attack Options

What would be nice, though, is to get the benefit of a bit of extra reach, but be able to tack this on to existing strikes. Basically, an enhanced-reach Attack Option, like Telegraphic Attack (MA, p. 113).

Which honestly is probably about what it is – something that is a bit out of your reach, but not requiring more than a bit of a lean.

This little discussion will be wrapped around a human norm. I’m sure it’s possible to consider how a creature with a 5-yard reach might well just get more than a single extra yard out of an All-Out Attack (long), but not today.

Option 1: Trade Reach for Skill

All-Out Attack provides us with an extra yard of reach being the same as +4 to hit, so we’ll go with that. You’re not giving up defenses to get there, though, so it’ll have to be worse than just each 0.25 yards being a -1 penalty to hit.

So let’s double it.

Each 0.25 yards of reach is -2 to hit. Using the RAW reach options, where your arms seem to be treated as 0.5 yards long, you cover from 0 to 1 yards with a punch, and thus need to add 0.5 yards to your reach. That should be -4 to hit, in exchange for a Reach 1 punch.

Using my suggested 0.7-yard reach, you only need -2 to hit, since that takes you from 0.45 yards to 1.45 yards. That nicely mirrors a kick, in a way. -2 to hit in exchange for getting the next yard of reach. It’s -1 damage, but you can’t fall down.

Option 2: Trade Reach for Defenses

Maybe those long attacks are easy to see coming. So it’s somewhat of a Telegraphic Attack. Instead of getting +4 to hit, you can trade that for +0.5 yards of Reach, in exchange for the usual +2 bonus your foe gets to defend, assuming a 0.5-yard punch.

For my rules tweak, Telegraphic Attack (Long Punch) still covers the same Reach 1, but your foe is only at +1 to defend instead of +2.

Parting Shot

I like all three options: Committed Attack, plus the variant Telegraphic Attacks, where you can either trade a lower hit chance or higher defenses for extending your punches to Reach 1.

If you want to be a stickler for “full hex coverage,” then you don’t even need to bother with my distinction of 0.5 vs. 0.7-yard punches. 0.45 to 1.45 yard coverage for the longer arms does not fully cover the foe’s hex, so the Rule of Slavishly Following Breakpoints kicks in, and both cases compress down to the harsher penalties.

Ridiculously Fine Distinctions

If you play games that can benefit from such, looking at reach in terms of yards rather than hexes can make calculation of Reach a bit more nuanced, and puts some rigor behind A Matter of Inches (MA, p. 110). Apply breakpoints ruthlessly, decide on effective lengths for each class of weapon, and then apply the additional reach above.

For example, treat each class of weapon

  • Very Short: 0.25 yards long
  • Short: 0.7 yards long
  • Medium: 1 yard long
  • Long: 1.25 yards long
  • Very Long: 1.5 yards long
  • Extremely long: 2 yards if reach 3

This isn’t the overall length of the weapon, it’s how far it protrudes past the hand closest to the foe. If you know this from a real weapon (a 24″ baton held 16″ past the grip, for example) go ahead and use that – batons are thus about .45 yards.

It’s ridiculously fiddly, of course, and you don’t want to entertain people using inches of height and weapon length to munchkin the game (though they will). But if such things matter, there’s a way to make them work out.

In GURPS, you can pack a lot of action into just a few seconds. But sometimes, you just need even more. While the various attack maneuvers let you strike a blow in the name of science (as an example), sometimes, due to a surfeit of targets or a surplus of awesomeness on your own part, you just want to hit twice.

The rules provide four options to do this (five if you count Altered Time Rate, but that’s two whole turns for 100 points, so I’ll skip that). 

All-Out Attack (Double)

The first method for striking twice is the All-Out Attack option that lets you do exactly that. Of course, like with most All-Out (Whatever), it has it’s time and place, as +Peter V. Dell’Orto ably articulated.

The good thing about this one is that it’s open to everyone. Is all it costs you . . . is your ability to defend. If you hear evil laughter in the background, your ears are not deceiving you.

When is it worth doing?

First, you have to satisfy the criteria for All-Out Attacking, which are referenced in the linked post above. Ah, heck: here they are again (but there’s also more in the post). As noted, Peter wrote this:

Yes, exactly. It’s actually a very, very useful tactic for some situations. In most, forgoing defenses is a bad decision. In others, makes a lot of sense. Off-hand, here are some where it’s a good idea:

  • attacking a foe that can’t reach you.
  • attacking a foe that can’t hurt you
  • attacking a foe that can’t retaliate (unready weapon, for example)
  • attacking from total surprise.
  • attacking when your defenses aren’t good enough to matter anyway.
  • attacking when you’re confident that your extra offense will nullify the chances of being attacked back (or attacked back effectively).
  • attacking when your allies can keep you safe from harm.
  • attacking a foe that can’t really bother with you.

So the question “Why would I ever do this?” is “Sometimes, it’s a good idea.” It’s never been a good idea to do it all the time, but that goes for a lot of maneuvers. It would only be worth getting rid of if it was literally never useful, and other maneuvers filled its niche in a superior way. It’s conditionally useful, and nothing fully replaces it.

 OK, great. So you’ve got the universe’s permission to All-Out Attack – why use Double?

Well, for one, if you’ve a lot of skill and your foe has defenses not boosted by skill, such as high-DB shields, Combat Reflexes, fencing weapons or martial arts skills that give extra-good retreat bonuses on a parry, or with high Dodge but lower skill, you can Feint-and-Attack. This is a great way to smack down defenses to a hittable range in this case.

If a foe might require a lot of individual hits – perhaps because they’re diffuse or something and the best you can do is one HP per blow, this one might be for you.

Also, if you do a whole bunch of damage and are pretty sure you can hit twice, then you’re effectively doubling your damage output. And if you’re playing a DF warrior with Weapon Master or something, swinging a sword for 3d+7 – well, sometimes your foe is just a big bag of HP, and you need to hit him a lot.

Finally, this isn’t the end-all/be-all. You can stack this with some the three other choices below, replacing one of your two attacks from your maneuver with either a DWA or set of Rapid Strikes, and then after that, add however many levels of Extra Attack you have.

When not to do it?

Any time you might need to defend, obviously. You also might need to choose a different AoA option for some reason – Long, Committed, and Strong all have their place.

Extra Attack

Unlike the other options, this one costs points. A lot of points, actually: 25 points per attack. That’s enough to buy +6 to skill even after you are in the 4 points per level progression. The other thing about Extra Attack is that it more or less limits you to one blow per limb. This is mostly clear from p. B53, and made explicit with the Multi-Strike enhancement, from GURPS Martial Arts (p. 44). For 30 points instead of 25, you can hit twice with the same attack, probably your best.

Extra Attack vs Rapid Strike

Extra Attack or even two of them with your best weapon costs 25/30 points for one, and 50/60 for two (if you can only do Extra Attack with one weapon skill, you’re back down to the lower cost). Even focusing on a single extra attack (30 points), you’re looking at giving up +7 to skill, which also brings with it a likely +3 or +4 (if your skill is odd) to Parry, which Extra Attack does not do.

So would you ever spend those points on Extra Attack instead of skill? Not really . . . if you’re a human using one weapon. And if you’re only using one weapon, you’re back down to 25 points, because you buy Multi-Strike at +20% and One-Weapon at -20%. Cancels out.

But if you have four arms, you’ll want a bunch of Extra Attacks, because the basic rules say you can get but one Rapid Strike. Oh, sure, Martial Arts says you can have as many as the GM will permit, at -6 each, but the Basic Set rules say you get to turn a single small-a attack into a Rapid Strike. Extra Attack is good at mitigating that.

If you can use Rapid Strike a lot, and even more so with Weapon Master to halve those Rapid Strike penalties (though that’s not cheap), it’s still probably better to buy skill.

Multiple Skills

The 25-30 points vs +6 to skill thing works if you have one skill. If you have two (Sword and Shield, Grapple and Strike), then getting Extra Attacks starts to look like a good deal, because you have to buy them all up to make the trade-off as straight-forward as presented.

Rapid Strike

I’ve talked about Rapid Strike and Dual-Weapon attack before, first trying to collapse them into one thing, and another recasting DWA as a Committed Attack.

The basic premise of Rapid Strike is that you can accept a -6 to skill (which is a lot) in order to attack twice. You have to be good to do this. The odds of hitting more often striking twice with a -6 vs. once at flat skill only favor two attacks at skill 20+, and probably 22+, because at 20, the -6 gets you to 14, which is a crit on a 3-4, but your higher skill is a crit at 6.

Now, if you have Weapon Master, which halves your RS penalties to -3 each, the transition point is a skill of 17+ where you go ahead and strike twice.

Of course, that’s just for hits. The damage output turns to favor Rapid Strike (on an undefending target) at Skill-16 without WM, and only Skill-12 with it!

How does this work? You have a damage output of 100% on any given successful blow. So your damage per strike is your hit probability times your damage. I use 100% for convenience here. But for RS, it’s the probability you hit once, times the damage output (100%), but you add the odds that you’ll hit twice, and if you do, you add another 100% damage. So basically, the odds you hit at least once, plus the odds you hit both times.

The damage per turn argument can be strong; you’ll hit more often with a single strike but the increased chance of hitting twice really ups the return on your investment. You still need Skill-21 without Weapon Master to make it worthwhile from a damage perspective.

In either case, once you hit a net skill of 16, any surplus skill you might have goes to Deceptive Attacks, which lower your foe’s defenses.

Rapid Strike with ranged weapons probably seems the same as melee, but the often humongous penalties you take for range really put the emphasis on “shoot once, shoot well.” If you’re at 30 yards for a -7 penalty, that basically comes off the top. So your break-even with the -3 (Gunslinger) is Guns-24 (!), while with mundane skills it rockets to a pretty inhuman 27.

Rapid Strike does not come with the baggage of not being able to use the same weapon twice, so you’re good here so long as your weapon doesn’t become unready.

Dual-Weapon Attack

As noted above, I have a thing about Dual-Weapon Attack. Not sure why. It just seems like it serves the same purpose as Rapid Strike but invokes a whole host of special rules.

But no matter. It requires you to use a weapon in each hand, and is -4 per attack. You do get -1 to your foe’s defenses, which helps that blow strike home.

DWA is a good technique if you routinely carry two weapons (or a weapon and shield) that can and maybe should be used independently. DWA allows you to preserve your defenses and is stackable with all the various attack maneuvers, including one of the two of an All-Out Attack (Double).

You’re better off DWA over even a single attack for hit probability at Skill-18, and per-turn damage output at Skill-14, both easy reach of even moderate-point adventurers.

DWA has some nice features for ranged weapons, too, since some special attacks let you DWA with two arrows at once with one draw. Technically it’s twice the mass and should probably be -1 per die to damage, but who cares because Legolas is awesome, right?

Parting Shot

You’ll want to throw multiple attacks when you can, especially in melee. “When you can” will mostly be when you have pretty high skill, or decent-to-high skill plus an advantage like Weapon Master.

The All-Out version is risky, of course. Leaving yourself defenseless is a bad idea unless you know you will be unmolested, or are sporting so much overall DR that you can ignore stuff.

DWA makes a great go-to tactic if you build your guy around that. An edged shield plus a balanced weapon makes for a great combo, but since you really do want both skills at 14-18, you’ll want to ensure you don’t waste points to get there. Alternately, for the two-weapon set, a pair of shortswords lets you dump all the points in one skill.

The high cost of entry of Rapid Strike (-6 per extra shot) means that unless you have points to burn on Weapon Master, you do this when you’re so good nothing else matters. And if you have enough points for WM, you’re awesome anyway.

Finally, Extra Attack. If you’re not using the extended Rapid Strike rules from Martial Arts, this one’s good if you want to exceed the normal maximum for attacks per round (the multi-limbed creature is the go-to example here) or you have many different skills and you want extra attacks with all of them.

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.   

Over on the SJG forums, there’s been a short dialog about a particular grappling move shown in a Marine Corps instruction manual. 

While I could (and have) opined on what I think that the move is, I wanted to make two points. First, GURPS provides something like five different ways to take someone down with grappling. Second, and most importantly, don’t sweat it.

While GURPS does provide for mechanical support for a bunch of different ways to do what you want, in a pinch, take a look at the similarities, not the differences.

First, lets look at the five options I listed in my Takedown Table on p. 19 of GURPS Technical Grappling (gratuitous plug).

  • Force Posture Change/Takedown
  • Offensive Judo Throw
  • Defensive Judo Throw
  • Throw from a Lock
  • Sweep

Of these, three require a grapple, and one requires both a grapple and a lock. Two don’t require it, and in fact, both start and end without one by default in the rules from Martial Arts and the Basic Set.

As you might imagine, a defensive judo throw starts when a parry ends. In particular, if you do a successful Judo Parry, you can (no surprise) follow that on your turn with a Judo Throw. This is resolved as an attack; your foe gets to defend – some degree of contact is assumed from the Parry.

OK, look at a Sweep, now. No contact is assumed, so you have to make it. This is an attack roll, as are all attempts to touch your foe, with or without injury. Since it’s treated as a strike and is often used with a weapon, this doesn’t get halving of penalties for location. OK, you’ve touched your foe, now to take him off balance, you roll a Quick Contest. Win and the guy goes down, and you stay standing. The Quick Contest is a stand-in for a damage roll, in a way.

The other three are basically variations on a theme. Grab the guy by making an attack, or in the case of a Throw from a Lock, first grab him, then put him in a Lock – that’s two attacks required, but the benefit of all that is you get to do swing damage.

To do the throw or takedown, you then roll . . . a quick contest. Again, the Quick Contest is the effect roll, and if you win it, then again, you dump the guy.

Sure, there are special rules, but basically, you’re dealing with DX, ST, or skill vs your foe’s DX, ST, or Skill, including Breakfall if you have it.

Parting Shot

While it’s certainly possible to have mechanical support for everything in GURPS, that’s not always desirable, and if you’re looking at Roll and Shout as a philosophy, you can do it. 

First, establish contact. If you don’t have contact, roll to strike or grapple, depending on what you’re trying to do, or parry a blow using an appropriate skill. If you want to do fancy painful things, you’ll probably have to develop your attack or parry somehow (Arm Lock)

When it comes time to get the guy down, you’re rolling a Quick Contest. If you’ve got an actual grapple, you can keep it. If you don’t, you can’t. If you win your QC, either he goes down, or he get injured.

As I read Fate, I think what I’d wind up ruling here – and true system masters can correct me – is that the grapple or set up is Creating an Advantage. If you’re using an Aspect or Stunt with a wrestling component to it, you could follow a successful defense based on that Aspect (say Judo Master, or Scrapper, or Warrior of Many Facets) with an attempt to Create an Advantage, perhaps at a bonus. Heck, the ability to follow a defense with a boosted Create an Advantage would be a nice consequence of a highly successful defense.

The takedown itself would also be Create an Advantage (giving the aspect Thrown to Ground or something), while an attempt to injure would be an Attack.

Without taking away from the thread that started me thinking, remember that all the ways to take someone down in GURPS have more in common than they have differences. If you’re in the mood to roll and shout, keep those commonalities in mind, and whatever ruling you wing at the time is unlikely to be that different than what Sean, Peter, or I wrote in our respective books!

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.

A digression on the forums about using Sports skills for combat led me to pen the following:

Bat Fu

3 points

The roar of the crowd. Reflexes of lightning. The power of earthbound gods. All of these are part of the legacy of the martial art known as Bat Fu.

Founded by the legendary Kei Si after unsuccessfully competing at a major competition in the town of Ní chéng, it’s practitioners study one weapon, and one weapon only: a balanced club known as the Lùyìsī wéi’ěr bàngqiú.

It is primarily a defensive style in essence. Practitioners begin – always – with a Wait maneuver, and then lash out at the exact moment with crushing force. If caught off guard, parries are Aggressive, and Parry Missile Weapons is a primary skill. Very little thought is given to defense, and most attacks are All-Out or Committed as well as Telegraphic.

Skills: Parry Missile Weapons; Two-Handed Sword Sport; Games (Baseball); Savoir-Faire (Baseball).
Techniques: Aggressive Parry; Feint; Low Fighting (Crouching Only);
Cinematic Skills: Power Blow.
Cinematic Techniques: Hand Catch.Springing Attack; Whirlwind Attack.
Perks: Grip Mastery (Lùyìsī wéi’ěr bàngqiú); Rapid Retraction (Lùyìsī wéi’ěr bàngqiú); Special Exercises (Arm ST +1 to +3); Weapon Bond.

Optional Traits

Advantages: Enhanced Parry; Weapon Master (Lùyìsī wéi’ěr bàngqiú only).
Disadvantages: Odious Personal Habit (Constantly spitting tobacco juice); Overconfidence.