Over at Mailanka’s Musing, he throws down a fun post, akin to my Technical Natasha effort, describing the fight between Luke and Vader in The Empire Strikes Back.

It’s a good breakdown, and worth the read.
One thing that came up in the comments was the frequency of blade-to-blade pushing. This is, I believe, referred to as corps-a-corps in fencing and GURPS. 
It’s what happens when you get grip-to-grip, in close combat. Lacking something on your blade to bind the other, or an actual grapple, this tends to not last long, and end with no small amount of blood.

In the various Star Wars movies, though, it goes beyond that. Combatants will frequently stand blade-locked, saber-to-saber. Usually snarling. It does make for dramatic cinema, of course. All that straining. It shows up over and over, too. It was in The Phantom Menace, with an iconic scene of Maul catching both of his Jedi foe’s lightsabers on his staff-saber, and holding them there. It was in Empire, as Luke strains against Vader and Vader contemptuously shoves him away. It was in The Force Awakens. It was all over the place in The Clone Wars and even in Rebels.

We do this all the time, by the way, in Hwarang Kumtoogi, the variant of Korean sword-sport that is practiced in Hwa Rang Do. It’s very close-in work, and used to deny the advantage of reach and proper form for a strike. 

What it’s not, at least when done correctly, is an all-out strain-fest. It’s probing pushes and bumps, looking for a break in rhythm Hwarang Kumtoogi allows dropping to the knees to do leg strikes, so that’s how this usually ends.

But in Star Wars it seems more than that. It seems so much more that I would suggest it’s something perhaps even unique to Star Wars, to lightsabers, or just as a mechanical way of representing something that’s somewhat iconic to the Star Wars lightsaber fighting method.

It’s a grapple

Specifically, it’s usually initiated after a grappling parry, but can also be forced by the combatant. It binds the blades in place without the need for an actual grip, due perhaps to the interaction between the blades themselves. (Blah, blah squishy physics, blah.)

But by simulating it as a grapple, you get two key side-effects. 

  • It becomes largely a contest of strength, or control points, which are derived from Trained Strength.
  • It simulates why people don’t just back up or disengage – they cannot.

This was just a though inspired by Daniel’s post. But treating this blade bind as a grapple that you can pull off with either a dedicated attack or the grappling equivalent of an aggressive parry would pretty fairly simulate the movies, and make good use of the GURPS rules without invoking lost fingers and limbs through actual grapples, which in a light-saber context, as well as with Telekinetic force users, might be pretty stupid.

+Peter V. Dell’Orto made a very on-point comment about my post Go ahead and roll vs. ST. Worth responding to in detail, so I did. His words are in blue-italics, mine in indented black.


I understand the impulse here, and I respect the work you’ve done, but:


– it’s got to be simple.
– it’s got to be a roll, because we don’t just say “DX 14? You just make it.”
– it’s not good if the roll makes another attribute into ST in order to avoid using ST (i.e. HT-based rolls to avoid ST-based rolls)

I tried, and perhaps failed, to make that clear in my Parting Shot. Well, parting fusillade, since I had an entire section there. But yeah, it does have to be simple. Some of the “don’t bother rolling” is to avoid ridiculous edge cases such as when someone pointed out that it was theoretically possible for someone of normal-human size and strength to fail to do a Pickup on a mouse.  

That was an artifact of the scaling at fractional multiples of Basic Lift getting quite crazy. PK and I deliberately stopped it at the low end, but didn’t put the line in saying “just don’t roll if you’ve got a ST 10 guy picking up a 2-lb object.”

I agree that all opposed contests should involve a roll. That’s why I pegged the expectation of automatic success at 14 to 16. 16 is convenient because it still allows for a crit fail.

This is why I still have rolls vs. ST, and why I’ll cheerfully normalize around ST 10 like in a Regular Contest of ST. Is it perfect? Not really. Can it be recursive? Yes, but so can any roll (I roll against DX to see how agile I am!). Is it simpler to use a stat on the sheet and not look stuff up? Yes. Done and Done.

Rolls vs. ST that are normalized vs a foe aren’t too bad, I suppose. I don’t like them, but they get the right approach. Rolling vs ST for things like Wrench Limb or to pick up a rock are problematic (the second much more than the first) because of the extrinsic nature of it.

The most useful part of my post, I think, is really the “this is how you can calculate an extrinsic penalty to make the ST roll vs an inanimate object not stupid.”



This is why everyone knows that you can jump over at hex at cost 2, but has to look up their Broad Jump. One you look at, one you look up.


I’d be fine with a replacement, but it’s got to be vastly better if it’s going to be even a little more complex and/or slower to use in play.

Well, I agree. That’s why the opening line of my Parting Shot was “well, this sucks.” Because even though “roll vs ST” has issues, “roll vs HT, then a complicated ST calculation, and if you fail that roll DX, and if you fail THAT roll HT again” is simply awful. It would work as a computer macro (and be pretty damn satisfying, at that). It would not work at the table, for the same reasons – it requires a computer even when things go well (to figure the Weight Penalty of an object and the corresponding Injury Modifier based on lift speed).

 TG has the beauty of swapping a single system that’s simple and binary with a single system that is simple and not-binary. That’s the standard I like – does this make my life easier and give better results? Perfect! One of those two? Okay. Makes things more complex and/or gives worse results? No.


This can be an impossible task with ST, being that it wasn’t designed ground-up to do all the things it could do.

This was the core of my findings. ST being extrinsic and not-simple (quadratic in nature) to calculate using the standard GURPS resort for such things (SSR table) means that anything you want to do requires breaking out the calculator (what’s the ST equivalent for a 1,356-lb rock? Gah! 82.3. That’s not helpful).  

Even switching to cubic ST, which I explored in a prior post, doesn’t help. It just switches the basis from a square root to a cube root. Booyah? No, that’s no better, and in fact it’s worse. 

Logarithmic ST based on the SSR would be better from that perspective, since it’s either a table lookup or something that many (not all) have internalized. Double the SSR value as a penalty has worked well enough in TG in the Grappling Encumbrance Modifier Table. That would pretty drastically reduce the resolution of ST though. 

As you note, I don’t see an easy answer there that meets our criteria – fast, realistic, easily playable. 

But I’m going to keep looking.

If you’ve read this blog, you’ll see that I’m not a huge fan of ST rolls. I prefer using comparative ST (or even Basic Lift) to calculate a modifier, and then rolling against . . . something . . . with that modifier applied.

In fact, that’s what Control Points (from Technical Grappling) basically are: a proxy for the power of your grip or applied force (damage analog) that either apply a penalty directly (often at -1 per 2 points) or can be spent to apply penalties 1:1, which makes them similar to thrust damage in progression and power.
But saying, “Oh, just roll against Skill with ST as a modifier” does have a drawback, in that it might privilege DX and the cheaper skill even more than usual – and if you can pit skill (at 4 points per level) vs. ST (at 10 for “full” ST, though only 3 for Lifting ST) mostly you’ll win by picking skill.
And yet, one of the reasons that Control Points and the Training Bonus were priced the way they were in TG was to keep ST cheaper – especially for multiple skills – as a way to make your grappling life better. All things being equal, the stronger fighter will win.
In fact, here’s a pull-quote from George Silver on the topic (p. 3 of TG):

Of the single rapier fight between valiant men, having both skill, he that is the best wrestler, or if neither of them can wrestle, the strongest man most commonly kills the other, or leaves him at his mercy.
                     – George Silver, Paradoxes of Defence

OK, so blah, blah – it’s good to be strong. But I hate ST rolls, because I think rolling against an extrinsic quantity is dumb. If you have a ST 15 man trying to lift a rock, he’s either got the ST to do it, or he doesn’t. Rolling ST to see if you can apply ST doesn’t work well – it’s basically recursive. What about penalized ST? Meh. Still rolling against a quantity not normed to a 3d6 roll.
So what can you do?

Roll against ST anyway

It’s possible to adjudicate this with a ST roll, but you’re going to have to be lavish with penalties. First, if we look at the rules for lifting things, found on p. B353, you can see that simply by taking Ready maneuvers, you can pick up (in two seconds) one handed a mass equal to twice your basic lift.  In two hands, but taking four seconds, you can hoist up 8xBL.
Well, if the first lift takes two seconds on the average, then you’re rolling against a 10. If the second lift takes 4 seconds, you might be rolling against an 8.
Can we rationalize this? Well, it has to scale, so that a ST 40 creature and a ST 10 creature both exerting themselves at 2xBL have the same odds of success. So a ST 10 creature needs to be operating at no penalty, while ST 40 needs to be operating at -30. 
So that means that lifting penalties must also be extrinsic. That is, the penalty for lifting a 500-lb boulder is independent of anything else. That’s actually darn handy.
After hacking at it for a bit, turns out that the right absolute penalty to make that work is

10 – ST equivalent of lifted weight *  sqrt(2)/2

So in order to normalize all ST rolls properly, you convert whatever weight is being lifted into an equivalent ST using the usual Basic Lift formula (ST = sqrt (5xWeight)), multiply it by 0.7 (call it 0.7), and subtract that from 10.
OK, now that’s for a 1-handed lift. The two-handed lift works out to a skill of 8, but much higher lift multiple. Do we wind up with a different scaling? I’m sure we do. Will it be easy to parse out? Let’s see. Yep, the trend is different, but you can relate to it.

8 – ST equivalent of lifted weight * sqrt(2)/4

OK, so the first number is the skill roll required, while the divisor for the sqrt(2) term incorporates the number of hands (2 instead of 1). The 8xBL vs 2xBL comes into play with the ST-equivalent calculation.
Issues, Issues

There are some clear issues with what’s going on up there, though.
For one, the faster you do the lift, the lower your penalty. This is an artifact of the starting conditions: the light, one-handed lift happens in two seconds, while the heavy, two-handed one takes four. But the target number can be seen in the table to the right.
The faster you lift, the higher your target, and so perversely you have a higher chance of a burst lift than you do a slow-and steady one.
Even so, heavy one-handed vs heavy two-handed, both in the same time, at least goes the right way. Pushing 160 lbs at ST 10 in one hand vs two looking for a two-second lift, you’d get:
ST-equivalent: sqrt(5×160) = 28.28, and multiplying by 0.707 gets about 20. Dividing that by two for two hands is 10.
Two-second lift: That’s just a target of 10. So you’re at -10 to do this lift 1-handed, and no penalty to do it with two hands.  (10-20 vs 10-10, for -10 and 0 with one and two hands).
From there on, just roll vs. ST with that penalty. Success means you lift the weight. And failure . . . 
Lift Fast, Get Hurt Fast

The problem with the fast lift is that you’re risking an injury or out-of-control condition. So if the penalties for lifting faster are lower, because you’re expecting fewer fails before you succeed, then we’ll need something to counterbalance that. Something where the faster you go, the more likely you may get hurt.
Let’s look at our two lifts above, 160 lbs with one and two hands. The penalties for a 1, 2, and 4 second lift (implying target numbers of 16, 10, and 8) would be -4, -10, and -12 for one-hand, and +6, 0, and -2 with two.
Yeah, so we definitely have issues if we just use this to roll vs. ST. We need a “did you hurt yourself” check first, and only then a “did you complete the lift” check.
So we’ll need something that says “heavier is worse, faster is worse, and stronger is better.”
So let’s look at ST – Target Number – Lifting Difficulty:
ST: What it says on the tin. Your ST score.
Target Number: the same thing you pick from the table above
Lifting Difficulty: ST equivalent of lifted weight * .707 / Number of Hands

Oh, and by-the way: I don’t think a 4-armed creature gets 4 there. It’s either 1 for one hand, or 2 for two-or-more.

So an average guy (ST 10) trying to lift 40 lbs (ST equiv of 14.14, penalty of -10 in one hand) in two seconds (target 10) will have a ST roll of 10 to lift it, but an injury penalty of 10-10-10 = -10.

That’s a hefty penalty, and honestly a HT 10 guy shouldn’t be worried about injuring himself here, because right now, he can lift that same 40-lb weight with two Ready maneuvers and no risk of injury. That suggests a net roll of 14 to 16, Or a bonus of something like 15 to the quantity above.

So let’s try that for a ST 20 guy, who should be able to lift 160 lbs in one hand with that same ease.

ST: 20
Target Number: 10
Weight Penalty: -20 (this is independent of ST, which is the only good thing about it)
Injury Modifier: 15+20-20-10 = +5

OK, good. Not surprising, but good. Now, if he wants to make that same lift in one second (target 16 – ‘you only fail on a critical miss’ territory’) that would be:

ST 20
Target Number: 16
Weight Penalty: -20
Injury Modifier: 15 (constant) + 20 (ST) -16 (Target) – 20 (lifting difficulty) = 35-36 = -1. 

So to do it in two seconds a prospective HT check would be at HT+5; in one second with little risk of failure you’d roll at HT-1.

That doesn’t seem like crazy talk. It does seem like way too much calculation to pick up a rock. It also makes me say Eww. At least two rolls – maybe three – per turn in order to lift something. Well, these are the trials and tribulations of wanting to keep rolling vs. an extrinsic parameter.

So, what happens if someone with ST 10 wants to lift 220 lbs in two hands, taking a target number of 7?

ST: 10
Target Number: 7 (check the table above)
Weight Penalty: 220 lbs in two hands is -11.7, call it -12
Injury Modifier: 15+10-7-12: 25-19 = +6.
Lifting Difficulty: 7-12 = -5

So taking one’s time will eliminate the possibility of injury (roll at HT+6), but you’ll roll at ST-5 to make the lift . . . 22 seconds to move BLx11.

Let’s say that a failure by 10 means you risk injury or lose control of the weight. So you make a DX check, and if you make it you can drop it safely. If you fail, you make a HT check or take damage.

Parting Shot

Well. This kinds stinks, really.

To make an extrinsic roll make sense (Roll vs. ST to lift the weight), then other weights need to be put in the same terms. That’s not bad. Each weight can be simply converted to a Weight Modifier for a one-handed lift. Halve that penalty for a two-or-more handed lift. 

But the rest? The sequence would go:

  1. Do Math
  2. Roll HT to see if you hurt yourself just applying the initial force.
  3. If you don’t hurt yourself, start making ST rolls. 
    1.      If you make the roll, you complete the lift.
    2.      If you fail the roll, but not by 10+, you’ve not hurt yourself but you didn’t complete the lift. 
    3.      If you fail by 10+, you botch the lift. Proceed to 4.
  4. Botched lift: Make a DX check. If you make it, you abort the lift successfully. If you fail . . .
  5. Make a HT check. Fail it and you injure yourself.
Up to three rolls just to lift something? Even if you push the boundaries of target number, ST equivalents, injury and whatnot, you’re still doing way too much work here.
So what do do?

The concept of a Weight Penalty makes sense. It’s the ST-based equivalent of a multiple of Basic Lift. But what you really want to do here is to take a “multiples of basic lift” approach for the entire thing, and calculate a penalty.
Then, you want to roll against something. 1xBL should be pretty much instant success with one hand – say +4 to +6. 2xBL should roll against a 10. 8xBL with two hands rolls against an 8.
If we play a bit, we can use the Size and Speed/Range Table. The Lifting Target for a given multiple of Basic Lift works out surprisingly well for 2x the Range value for that multiple. Target numbers are also sensible: 10 for 1-H lift and 15 for 2H lift. If we tabulate that, we get
Red means you can’t even roll to lift it. But maybe you add 5 to it if your goal is to “shift slightly.” So that you need a crit with two hands to shift 50xBL slightly (you’ll be trying it for 30s or so), but with one hand, you can shift about 15xBL a bit.
So that’s at least “make one roll, and on a failure, maybe you need to check to see if you drop it or injure yourself or something.” It scales automatically, since it’s based on an NxBL figure. And it uses a table that every GURPS player has.
What about ST vs ST?

This is also force on force, and the best way to look at it is probably a ratio of BL to BL. That provides a good assumption that whatever the right ratio of effort is (I can fight at 6xBL!), it’s common to all. So ST 10 vs ST 20 has the ST 10 guy resisting 4x his own BL, while the ST 20 guy is pushing back against only 0.25xBL to achieve “balanced” levels of force.
If we use the same scale as pushing vs a static object, then only one party should roll. If I try and split it into two rolls (so each party gets their own lookup), that is perhaps more satisfying, but it creates some artifacts. 
So I’m just going to have the PC roll vs a look-up table result. The GM can either assume that he’s rolled a 10 vs. a 10 target (and leave it all in the hands of the PC) or actually roll if more variability is desired.
But the resolution is finer: if the foe is twice your ST (or half of it), it’s not a contest at all. You just lose. So the gradations of the roll look like this:
You could easily turn this into a ST vs ST table (I did that too). But basically, take the foe’s ST divided by the PC’s ST and square it. Look that up as the BL multiple on the SSR table, double the modifier, add that to 6, and roll. If you make the roll, you win. Fail it, you lose. If the GM also wants to roll, it’s whoever makes it by most, or fails by the least.
Other Possibilities

The only other possibilities for contests of power (or at least those that are strongly influenced by power) are DX and HT. DX makes sense in some cases – such as combat skills, which take account of relative ST through a damage roll (or a control point roll, in Technical Grappling). 
HT seems good at first – hey, if you’re robust, you can push your limited ST farther without buckling. 
That’s all well and good, but HT is more frequently fatigue and exhaustion rather than structural power, and doing it that way means a ST 10, HT 20 guy has a super-duper advantage arm wrestling a ST 10, HT 10 guy. That’s probably not desirable.
So I think the flat values explored above are the right mathematical way to go if you’re replacing ST rolls with ST-modified target rolls. 
For keeping ST rolls, it’s obviously a heck of a lot more complicated, and involves finding another extrinsic quantity – in this case force or weight – to subtract from the roll before you roll dice. The nice thing about that is for very low (or high) weights, if your net roll is 19 or higher (say), you can just say “yep, you grabbed it.” If it’s less than 3, “you can’t lift it.”

Kromm laid down the format, so I tried to do the same thing for Judo. This is bascially a find/replace of Judo for Karate, since they mostly have the same rules. Still – check my work?

Remember to use the higher of DX or skill. Going by the Basic Set alone, doing all the math to express things relative to DX (drop fractions at the very end!), and putting the benefits of Judo in boldface, the real progression is this:

  • 0 points (DX only): Grapple (including takedowns and other DX defaults) at DX; grapple with the legs at DX-2; break free at DX, armed enemies who parry your unarmed grapples attack your limb at full skill; parry unarmed attacks at DX/2 + 3, or DX/2 + 4 if retreating; you maynot use hands-free parries to parry grapples; parry weapons at DX/2, or DX/2 + 1 if retreating; cannot attempt Judo Throw, Arm Lock, Choke Hold, or Finger Lock.
  • 1 point (Judo at DX-2): Grapple (including takedowns and other DX defaults) at DX; grapple with the legs at DX-2; break free at DX, armed enemies who parry your unarmed grapples attack your limb at skill-4; parry unarmed attacks at DX/2 + 3 (DX/2 + 2 if using Judo to set up a throw), or DX/2 + 5 if retreating; you may use hands-free parries to parry grapples at DX/2 + 2; parry weapons at DX/2 + 2, or DX/2 + 5 if retreating; following a Judo parry, can attempt Judo Throw (DX-2) , Arm Lock (DX-2), Choke Hold (DX-4), or Finger Lock (DX-5).
  • 2 points (Judo at DX-1): Grapple (including takedowns and other DX defaults) at DX; grapple with the legs at DX-2; break free at DX; armed enemies who parry your unarmed grapples attack your limb at skill-4; parry unarmed attacks at DX/2 + 3 (DX/2 + 2.5 if using Judo to set up a throw), or DX/2 + 5.5 if retreating; you may use hands-free parries to parry grapples at DX/2 +2.5; parry weapons at DX/2+2.5, or DX/2 + 5.5 if retreating; following a Judo parry, can attempt Judo Throw (DX-1) , Arm Lock (DX-1), Choke Hold (DX-3), or Finger Lock (DX-4).
  • 4 points (Judo at DX): Grapple (including takedowns and other DX defaults) at DX; grapple with the legs at DX-2; break free at DX; armed enemies who parry your unarmed grapples attack your limb at skill-4; parried unarmed attacks automatically set up throws at DX/2 + 3, or DX/2 + 6 if retreating; you may use hands-free parries to parry grapples at DX/2 + 3; parry weapons at DX/2+3, or DX/2 + 6 if retreating; following a Judo parry, can attempt Judo Throw (DX) , Arm Lock (DX), Choke Hold (DX-2), or Finger Lock (DX-3).
  • 8 points (Judo at DX+1): Grapple (including takedowns and other DX defaults) at DX+1; grapple with the legs at DX-1; break free at DX+1, armed enemies who parry your unarmed grapples attack your limb at skill-4; parry unarmed attacks automatically set up throws at DX/2 + 3.5, or DX/2 + 6.5 if retreating; you may use hands-free parries to parry grapples at DX/2 + 3.5; parry weapons atDX/2+3.5, or DX/2 + 6.5 if retreating; following a Judo parry, can attempt Judo Throw (DX+1) , Arm Lock (DX+1), Choke Hold (DX-1), or Finger Lock (DX-2).

Adding in the Martial Arts rules gives you a bunch more techniques (some of which default to untrained DX). If using Technical Grappling, Judo doesn’t start to “pay off” in the form of extra Trained ST until you reach DX+4 (+0.5 extra Control Points per roll).

Parting Shot

A point in Judo goes one important thing right off the bat – it enables Judo Throw following a parry using Judo. Now, in order to make it work, you’ll need to invest. I had a character with Axe/Mace-18 and the Perk Judo Throw defaults to Axe/Mace and could not get Judo Throws to work reliably in combat, so it’s not a slam dunk. But Judo Parry sets up both throws and locks that you must invest in a grappling skill in order to take advantage of.

Once you get 4 points in, anything you can do with DX you can do with Judo instead.

That’s the key breakpoint. At 8 points, anything you do with DX you do better with Judo if there’s an option.

When I wrote Technical Grappling for GURPS, I had a basic design philosophy: use the same concepts as a striking roll – attack, defense, damage – to inflict a variable amount of effect on your foe. In this case, the effect is control and restraint, rather than injury.

+Peter V. Dell’Orto liked the concept enough to strip it down a bit and use it to great effect in his Dungeon Fantasy campaign.

I wanted to see if I could break into the D&D world a bit, and when I saw that Swords & Wizardry, my reintroduction to the D&D world courtesy of +Matt Finch, has some mechanical issues with the grappling rules, and that D&D5 was interesting but not that much better, I decided to collaborate with Peter and see if we could bring TG to D&D.

We decided on the OSR and Swords and Wizardry rules because they’re simple. One can extrapolate from S&W to other editions of D&D because you can add stuff. Feats if you’d like, treating monsters (which in S&W have a fairly minimal stat block) like characters, or using D&D5‘s Conditions to define results? All of those can be added to the system, but stripping them out to play S&W would be quite difficult on the fly.

In any case, Peter’s big on just enough rule for the job, so he’s a perfect compliment to my tendencies to the reverse.

I hope you like Gothridge Manor #8 – go, um, grab it, wrestle it to the ground, and let us know what you think!

Gothridge Manor 8 Preview

L-O-C-K in the OSR!
L-O-C-K in the OSR!
L-O-C-K in the OSR!
Lockin’ in the OSR.

(Apologies to John Mellencamp)

Look, a preview!

A while ago, +Peter V. Dell’Orto and I decided that it should be possible, and more importantly, it would be fun to apply the principles of Technical Grappling to a game as widespread and popular as D&D.

We were (are!) in +Erik Tenkar‘s Swords and Wizardry campaign, and it is a very streamlined ruleset, so we decided that we should base it on that, since it’s easy to make things more detailed on the fly, but harder to strip detail out.

But what to do with it once we were done? Fortunately, +Tim Shorts had answer in Gothridge Manor, an independent zine with a heart-to-size ratio at least three sizes larger than it might first appear.

So look for it soon, and buy it when it appears! While you’re at it, I intereviewed both Tim and Erik on the Firing Squad a while back.

Over on G+, +Axel Castilla asked if this woudl be compatible with D&D5, as well as the OSR/Swords and Wizardry game. My answer is probably worth adding to the post:

The reason we picked the OSR as the basis is because of the very limited amount of information given for monsters in that system. D&D3.5 and D&D5 (in the form of Pathfinder and Fifth Edition, the books I have) use near-full writeups for monsters, mostly with full stats and bonuses. So if we’d written it up that way, you couldn’t back convert easily to OSR. Writing “OSR-first” allows you full compatibility.

So ultimately, you should be able to use these alternate rules – assuming you like them – for any variant of D&D.

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!

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.