More Granularity: Why we don’t resolve foot-races on the hex map

by mshrm

Still thinking about weird things that come up due to the way GURPS carves up an analog world into a world of discrete steps ruled by a 3d6 bell curve.

Movement in general seems to summon up a lot of oddities. In the real world, one runner might be just slightly faster than another. Take the world records for the 100m dash. The men’s times cover a span of about half a second, and the women’s times have a span of close to 0.6 seconds; both spans of time too small for the GURPS rules to work with. Say we’ve got two runners, Avery and Blake. Both are world-class, so they’ve both got Move 10.

The character sheets do, anyway. The “real world” people the character sheets are approximating have “Move scores” more like 9.875 and 10.033, which vary from day to day and moment to moment, depending on blood sugar levels and mental state and a thousand other variables that are way too small to worry about for a game.

We want to run a foot race between Avery and Blake. If we tried to handle it like combat, turn-by-turn on a hex map, odd things start to crop up immediately. Let’s say Avery gets the first action, and shoots 10 hexes ahead of the Blake. Right there, we’ve got Avery and Blake in a situation on the hex map that would never happen, even for an instant, in the real event being modeled. In a real Olympic 100m dash, if you ever see 30 feet of distance between two runners, it’s not going to be right off the starting line. More likely, Avery and Blake would be within arm’s reach of each other through the entire race.


Zeno’s combat turn is 1 sec, 0.5 sec, 0.25 sec…

Next, Blake gets a turn and catches up. Then Avery and Blake take turns, leap-frogging down the track, alternating between 10 hexes of separation and none at all. At the finish line, Avery gets the first action of the turn, breaks the tape, and wins.

Luckily, the Rules As Written already have us covered. We shouldn’t be trying to run a race like a combat.  GURPS Basic Set: Characters, page 218:  “When racing someone of equal Move on foot, roll a Quick Contest of Running skill to determine the winner.”  That line is in there to avoid this weird, jerky race.

… which is only weird and jerky if you envision Avery and Blake both taking a full second of actions on their turns, while the other stands watching, frozen in time. GURPS turns overlap. Everything happens at once.

* * *

Something else to keep in mind:  If you think these kinds of artifacts are a deal-breaker, you should remember that GURPS’ one-yard-and-one-second scale is a lot more fine-grained than most game systems.

I (dimly) recall a game from back in middle school. I think we were using Star Frontiers. That system’s game turn was 6 seconds long. Thus, all else being equal, a character in that system would cover six times the distance of the equivalent GURPS character in the space of a single turn.

The setup was, the good guys blew the bad guys’ cover, leading to a running gun fight in an area much like a mall. At this late date, I couldn’t say for certain if I was playing or running the game. Nor can I say if it was the good guys or the bad guys who decided to cut and run, nor even if it was all of that side or only one of them.

What I do recall is, one side withdrew at a full run. In a single action, the counter traveled a twisted path, going through more than a few doors, passing through several forks in the road. Then, it was time for the other side to move. The other side’s counter followed the same twisty, turny path, and wound up right on the heels of the pursued. That’s where the disagreement started.

“No way! We broke line of sight, there’s no way X could know to take all those turns! What are they, psychic?”

In the real world, when one person is chasing another in that kind of situation, the feedback and corrections are constant. Neither side was fast enough to outpace the other, so the pursuers would have been right there, taking turns right behind the runner. It was only that springy lead given by taking the first action that gave the illusion of distance.

In GURPS, going back-and-forth one second at a time, rather than every 6 seconds, we still get that phantom lead, but it’s only 1/6th as large. In that star-port mall, that would have meant only having a single door or turn between the two counters at any particular time. We still get artifacts, but they’re smaller.