Don't Forget Your Boots

Meandering aimlessly around the GURPS landscape

Tag: rules

Wrestling with Technical Grappling

At this time, I can say for certain that the future of the Dungeon Fantasy game will include some form or subset of the rules presented in GURPS Martial Arts: Technical Grappling. It’s all just a question of figuring out the sweet spot of rules to use and rules to ignore for speed. I would be a lot more skittish about the change without the evidence provided by reports based on actual play, like this one over at Dungeon Fantastic, and examples like “Technical Natasha” over at Gaming Ballistic.

I’ve been going through the PDF, start to finish, making mental notes of neato stuff. There’s a lot there, more than we can use at the moment.

* * *

I love the idea of Grip CP — “CP” being “Control Points”, a central concept for these rules, representing how much control one exerts over the thing being gripped, grappled, wrestled over, or wrung out — as presented on page 12. Effectively, anybody wielding a weapon has a grip on that weapon, with a rated strength. Under the basic rules (B370), two people wrestling over control of a weapon would engage in a Regular Contest of ST. Under the TG rules, they would attack the grip, modifying the Grip CP as they go. As the current grip varies from turn to turn, the weapon might be hampered but still usable, or retained but unready, and control can pass back and forth depending on who is doing better at the time.

As I look at the equivalent basic rules, it occurs to me that there doesn’t seem to be an option to force an opponent’s weapon to become unready:  if you win the Regular Contest, you take the weapon away; if you lose the Regular Contest, you lose your grip on the weapon; while the Regular Contest is being contested, the weapon is grappled and apparently the wielder apparently suffers a -4 DX when attempting to use it.  Unless there’s something I’m overlooking, under those rules, anybody trying to grab Gabby’s rapier is just setting themselves up for trouble. She won’t be wrestling for control, she’ll just be happy that you’re standing still and perforate you at an effective 15 skill. Offhand, that sounds like “Telegraphic Attack to the vitals” and “stabby-stabby-stabby” to me.

Or maybe I’m wrong, and the proper way to interpret the basic rules is to say that while the Regular Contest is going on, the weapon is flat-out considered unready. (Doubt it.) However, that means anybody who can make the initial grab can take away a person’s weapon, at least for a moment, and we’ll never, ever see (say) a kobold (ST 8) wrapping all four limbs (Grip ST 12) around Alric’s axe in an attempt to slow him down, only to have Alric eat the penalties and keep on swinging. That image alone is enough for me.

TG takes that Regular Contest, and injects a bunch of fresh nuance and options. It seems like it would just feel more like slowly peeling the enemy’s fingers off the grip, one by one. It offers the chance for more descriptive combats — “Since two hands aren’t doing it, I’ll add my teeth!  I bite his thumb!” — rather than just rolling until somebody fails.

* * *

More options for the light fighter types. The basic books don’t seem to support armed grapples, only unarmed. GURPS Martial Arts appears to be where the Armed Grapple technique appeared, but I wouldn’t expect either Needles or Gabby to be much interested in it. Now, under TG, they’ll be receiving a bonus to their Trained ST — well, Gabby will, anyway, and I’m sure Needles will be raising his skill higher in time — which should help offset that reluctance.

Furthermore, I’m toying with the idea of having Trained By A Master and/or Weapon Master (and/or Heroic Archer, if anybody ever decides to pick up a ranged weapon and take to pinning bad guys to the walls by their clothes…) turn on one of the cinematic switches, and double inflicted CP.

It seems appropriate to me that a quote-unquote “Weapon Master” would be just as much bad news grappling as they would striking. At the very least, a master of nets or the like, weapons that entangle without damaging, should get some benefit equivalent to the normal damage bonus. It seems appropriate for other masters as well. Many’s the time, in movies and cartoons, I’ve seen the teacher snag the student’s collar with a weapon and drag ’em around.

* * *

Bolas. Oh, goodness. I used to hate bolas. If they weren’t such a weird, off-brand weapon, I bet there would be more talk about ’em. One of the characters in the old street-level supers game (not the Supers 1200, but an earlier, 500-point attempt) was a pseudo-Batman-knockoff who used bolas, among many other weapons. Made sense, what with the less-than-lethal nature of the weapon. But in play… gah, they were horrible.

By the rules on B410, if you hit, and they try to Parry, you have a good chance of taking away their weapon.  If they fail to defend, you’ve just taken away the target’s next three actions. If you manage to entangle both their hands, they’re… I dunno, I guess they’re stuck until somebody comes along to free them. There’s no provision for escaping through ST or skill.  (Which is odd, since Escape would be available if someone were tied up carefully with a bola, but not if one is thrown at them.) If someone tried to entangle Rhino like this, I would just have him start doing thr-1 damage against the weapon itself until he broke free, which wouldn’t take very long at all, but that’s not very helpful for characters of high but still near-human strength. All else being equal, I would expect Conan’s superior strength to free him faster than the normal soldier beside him.

Conan’s probably got more Luck, too, which helps, but that’s beside the point.

At any rate, TG removes all that magic and turns them into just another entangling weapon, works the same way as everything else, by inflicting CP. A skilled user, one dedicated enough to slam the points into it, can still pull off crazy stunts… but the weapon itself isn’t an instant-win. It’s possible to get a bit of a hold on a target, enough to hamper but not enough to drop ’em. It’s equally possible for the skilled or lucky wielder to get massive CP and put a target down indefinitely, rather than having an upper limit of three DX rolls’ worth of inactivity. That’s win-win, as far as I’m concerned. It puts a lot more distance between the master and the student.

Funny thing about the Batman-knockoff:  over time, he used the bolas less and less, preferring to use a taser when seeking live prisoners. The taser was pretty darn effective, but not nearly as much as the bolas: it didn’t work on robots, and Rhino often likes a HT-based rolled better than three DX rolls, even with a steep negative modifier. It was almost as if the player became embarrassed at using such an annoying weapon.

* * *

The rules concerning the differences between a wrestler wearing loose clothes and a sturdy backpack versus one wearing a loincloth and covered in oil (TG7-8).  When TPoTKotBO ran his experimental GURPS fantasy game, I played a wrestler, name of Dog, who made a habit of making sure he had a good coating of olive oil at all times. The GM allowed me a level of Slippery to account for this, which was cool of him, but the TG rules add some necessary spice. They don’t just have slipperiness making it harder to grab a character. They actually make it possible to lose CP over time, as the target slides from one’s grasp.

Makes me want to run a greased pig competition. Douglas Cole already outlined how to do a tug of war. If somebody writes up some good rules for bobbing for apples, Tembladera might have to have a fair.

* * *

Spending CP to reduce hit location penalties with a strike. Simple and elegant, and it covers a bunch of moves with a single mechanic. Grabbing the head to set up a headbutt. The old trick with a hand on either shoulder and a knee in the natural place for a knee to go. From behind, one hand on the forehead and a blade across the throat. The smiling assassin, taking a handshake or a friendly hand on the shoulder and turning it into a grapple and a yank onto the concealed dagger.

Know something else you could adapt it to, I betcha?

Bishop, performing surgery.

Bishop, performing surgery.

You can do something similar with CP using Grab and Smash (TG24, updating MA118), where you make two attacks in a single turn (by whatever means), start off with a grapple, and then spend some or all of the inflicted CP to increase damage. (Some of those examples above could be played out this way, too.)

Hmm. Seems like you should be able to spend your CP’s to reduce the penalties for someone else’s attack, like when one guy puts the victim in a full nelson and the other guy punches the victim in the jaw. On the other hand, that could just be the active control penalties at work. Plus the All-Out Attack that sets ’em up for a surprise kick from the victim…

* * *

The options under “Muscling It” (TG26) look like they’d come in quite handy, if we ever go back to playing any kind of supers. They’re also a key piece to running a rodeo in GURPS. (There’s that greased pig again…)

I’m inordinately fond of any set of rules that opens up a weird new kind of campaign. When GURPS Social Engineering came out, it made me extraordinarily happy that I could now set up a campaign around one character’s run for President. In a similar vein, I’ve been known to threaten a Matlock-based game, after a couple of drinks. I wouldn’t rule out a modern-day game based around rodeo competition, with or without the optional solving of mysteries or battling against supernatural menaces on the side.

* * *

The One Foe option, where the character concentrates on one enemy, to the exclusion of any others, to get a benefit in defending against that enemy. It’s never, ever going to see use in the average dungeon brawl, of course, but it’s just the thing for one-on-one fights.

Who knows, maybe TKotBO will get his honorable duel one of these days…


You Eye-ballin’ Me, Boy?

In slowly crawling out from under the flood of GURPS-related reading, I ran across the Kromm-note on page 54 of How to Be a GURPS GM, commenting on the Evaluate maneuver. The long and the short of it was, Evaluate is meant for the folks who know the fight is starting three seconds from now.

I’m reminded of the Western cliche, where the Young Guy With Something To Prove approaches the Grizzled Veteran with a rude stare. (Takes an Evaluate.) Grizzled Veteran seems to feel the weight of Young Guy’s gaze, and growls out “You eye-ballin’ me, boy?” (Body Language roll to recognize the Evaluate, then an Intimidate.) Usually, Y.G. backs down, but sometimes he’ll go for the attack anyway and gets spanked. (Rushing to attack without the full +3 bonus, and showing why he could have used it.)

I don’t think any of us in the local group have really thought about the tactic.  When TKotBO went to assassinate the goblin wizard, for instance, he probably could have used another +3. I’m not sure Needles needs any more bonus to his back-stab, but it’s there, if the party starts setting more ambushes.

Just another example of how we’re not so familiar with the lower-tech, melee-oriented rules.


Evaluating Evaluate

It looks like everybody else is talking about Evaluate (I think this is probably as good an entrance to the conversation as any), so I might as well follow the herd.  My two cents’ worth:

I remember, back when we were first going through the rules, a couple of my long-term players expressed delight over the existence of the Evaluate maneuver. In actual play, though, I don’t think anybody has ever used it. I’ve never asked, but I assume that’s because of the same reasons everybody else has mentioned: the bonus is small, and the opportunity cost is high.

If I wanted to encourage my players to use the Evaluate maneuver, I think the easiest thing I could do would be to change it from “Step” to “Half move”. The PCs in the Dungeon Fantasy game are heavily biased towards melee, so they’re constantly trying to find ways to cover ground and still project damage. They first went through a phase where they favored Move and Attack, but the skill cap was too harsh for them. Then, there were experiments with All-Out Attack, since it allows a half-move. For the most part, though, nobody likes giving up their defenses. TKotBO was depending on DR for a bit, so he didn’t mind losing his defenses, but then his player figured out the effects of a shield on active defenses and now he won’t give up his Block for anything. Alric does a lot of AOA’s, seemingly betting that any enemy he gets near will have more on its mind than taking advantage of any openings in his defenses. Like, collecting all its suddenly-severed body parts. For their part, Gabby and Needles live by their Dodge scores, so they didn’t want anything to do with the AOA. I think they might go for a maneuver that lets them move without doing damage, if it sets them up to do more damage later on.

Of course, I’m just speculating, there. Might be, even that wouldn’t be enough.

Myself, though, I don’t think there’s anything that needs changing, particular. In my opinion, Evaluate isn’t really for most PCs. PCs might use it if they want to “one punch” a slower opponent, or if they’ve got a bear in a trap or some such, but that’s it. Evaluate exists to give mooks something to do while they’re waiting to queue up and get knocked down. It’s the maneuver taken by the second and third ranks of flunkies while they wait for the first rank to die and get out of their way.

(Actually, I’m pretty sure Evaluate was originally intended to explain what boxers are doing when they circle each other and don’t exchange any blows. Lulls in combat. As many others have said, if you want your PCs taking an Evaluate and producing lulls in combat naturally, you want to take a look at “The Last Gasp“.  That’s really the missing piece of the puzzle.)

Fatigue and the Grueling Death March

Last week’s posts were pretty sparse, simply because I’ve been too tired to be inspired. What with one thing and another, it’s been a rough month. Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t been all bad… it’s just been vigorous. I reckon it’ll take a couple of days off to really bounce back.

… which brings me right back around to the GURPS rules for recovering Fatigue. I’ve been gnawing repeatedly at this same area for over a year, now.

I’ve mentioned in the past that the Dungeon Fantasy game was originally proposed as a sort of tutorial on parts of the GURPS system that we don’t have much experience with, like hiking and hunger and disease. The goal was to graduate to a grim, nasty post-apocalyptic campaign. I felt it was important to get a firm handle on certain rules sub-systems. If you’re aiming for a story that deals with questions like “What happens when the heavily-armed survivors get down to their last can of creamed corn?”, it helps to have a little detail around starvation, for example.

When I think about the post-apocalyptic genre, I don’t think about cannibals with punk hair and multiple piercing driving around in dune buggies. (Well, ok. I don’t think about them first.)  No, as far as I’m concerned, the main aspect of the genre, the one that’s true across the board, is sheer, grinding Fatigue — in GURPS terms, at least. It’s hunger, and thirst, and freezing in the nuclear winter, and baking in the desert sun, and walking until you’re beyond exhausted because to stop is to die.

I’ll admit, maybe I was overly affected by The Road.

The GURPS rules-as-written for Fatigue are great for Dungeon Fantasy purposes, but they don’t quite fill the need, when it comes to gritty post-apocalyptic stories. A character can work to exhaustion, collapse, rest for a couple of hours, and be back in fighting shape. This is just what the doctor ordered for larger-than-life fantasy, but it doesn’t really convey the effects of being beat down, day after day. In my experience, there are at least three different varieties of “tired”. The first kind, you take five and get a drink. The second, you kick back in a comfy chair and relax for a while. The third, you sleep in for a couple extra hours and still hobble around slow the next day.

This is an old issue*, and there are multiple solutions already. One of the best, most detailed solutions is presented in “The Last Gasp”, from Pyramid #3/44. I really like the rules there, not least because they match up quite well with the real world, but I think they might be a trifle too heavy on the bookkeeping for my group. I think some of them are still coming to terms with the idea of tracking encumbrance, much less varying rates of Fatigue recovery.

Another idea that I find appealing is presented here, where longer-term exhaustion is treated like a disease, along with such nifty conditions as “Cabin Fever” and “The Common Cold”. (Even if I don’t use exhaustion-as-a-disease, I like the idea of defining things as diseases, in GURPS terms, which wouldn’t necessarily be an illness in the real world. Maybe the gods don’t smile on those who don’t worship correctly, so any PC who skips a temple visit has to roll against Will or suffer mild bad luck…)

This approach has some extra bookkeeping, but it treats exhaustion more like the special Fatigue losses for hunger and thirst. That’s the kind of thing that I might track, rather than leaving to the players.

As far as the current game, I’m absolutely going to stick with the standard rules. Rocking the boat at this time would just be too disruptive, especially for spell casters. I’ve already picked on them enough. For now. But, when the time comes, I expect the post-apoc game will use one or more of those three alternate rules.


* I use the word “issue” very loosely. It’s the kind of thing you’ll only notice in certain genres, and even then, only if you obsess on the subject.

What kind of Bow skill did Robin Hood have?

One of my players was asking about the GURPS-ification details of Robin Hood’s feat of archery, where he split his opponent’s arrow with his own. What level of Bow skill would it take to perform the trick?

Luckily, I’ve got a copy of the 3rd edition GURPS Robin Hood, so I can cheat. The stats given there for the class “yeoman” version of Robin show Bow (Longbow)-25… spending 64 points for it, even after paying for DX 17!  According to the sidebar on page 26, this level of skill was considered “conservative”.

Let’s see how 4th edition Robin stacks up.

Again, the sidebar from page 26 provides some details. The target was at a distance of 150 yards, for a range modifier of -11.  An arrow has a diameter of a quarter inch, giving -14 for target size. At least the target’s not moving. That’s a total of -25. I think that stacks up well against some of the stuff Legolas pulls off in the movies.

The longbow from the Basic Set has an Acc of 3. (Interestingly, the 1/2D range for a longbow built for a ST 10 wielder works out to 150 yards, the range to Robin’s target. I do not think this a coincidence.) Robin likely invested in a Fine bow, which might have improved his 1/2D and Max ranges, but this would have no effect on accuracy. With three or more seconds of Aiming, this would give a bonus of +5. Net modifier stands at -20.

Since Robin wasn’t looking to avoid any sudden attacks, he likely took an All-Out Attack (Determined), picking up an additional +1, bringing his net modifier to -19.

It’s standard to assume that target shooting on the range is more accurate than shooting during a life-and-death battle. (See this post and this one here, for example.)  A +6 to +8 modifier accounts for knowing the distances involved (as opposed to eyeballing it at the time), not being nervous or concerned about the outcome, not being in fear of immediate death or dismemberment, and so forth. In Robin Hood’s case, though, we’re not talking about a day plinking on the range, but a high-stakes contest. I would still call it a bonus, but not such a large one. Let’s cut the modifiers in half, calling it +3 to +4, and then err on the side of higher skill, and call it a final +3. Now the net modifier is down to -16.

So the answer is, Robin Hood had enough skill to absorb a -16 penalty and still succeed. He could have as low as a 19 base skill and still make the shot on a roll of 3. If you figure his effective skill, in the end, was 9 or less, he must have had a starting skill roll of 25. Making the shot would then be a happy surprise, not a miracle. If your Robin Hood could make shots like that all day long, one right after another, like something from a cartoon, then he must have a starting roll of over 30. Some depictions of comic book archers like Green Arrow and Hawkeye probably end up around that high. The stats I used for Hawkeye, during the 1200 point supers game, had a 25.


No, really, why not D&D?

That last post seemed to stir up some response, with some great discussion over on G+, so I thought I would throw a little more fuel on the fire. As the wise man said, “Some men just want to watch the world burn.” 😉

But, seriously, I’m not knocking on the D&D ecosystem. It was what started me on this road.* It’s my gaming roots. Clearly, the idea of playing desperate men and women crawling into a hole in the ground to whack monsters and take their money is an idea that has resonance, even today, decades after the original ideas came up.

I absolutely do not want to push negativity.**  I would rather lift GURPS up than push down the whole wide world of Dungeons And-Or Dragons.

So, that out of the way, I’ll double-down: GURPS has the level of focus that I like, a level of focus that I haven’t seen offered by any edition or variant of D&D.

Here’s an example. I’ll keep picking on the hit points. Everybody loves to pick on the hit points. Some of the G+ discussion centered around how the D&D HP is an abstraction. Take your 20th level fighter, who can jump off a cliff and survive, where her 1st level self would have died outright.

Yes, yes. <waves hands> I know, there are various “massive damage” rules that kick in to discourage high-level fighters from choosing to eat a giant-sized bowl of damage. Doesn’t matter. Say the fighter would have to make extra rolls if she took 50 points of damage, but the actual damage from the fall was only 45 points. That’s plenty enough to kill a 1st level fighter.  (Or, at least, it was in my day. I hear recent editions have given 1st level characters lots of HP? Or something?)

I’ve heard folks complain about that 20th level fighter leaping off the cliff, saying it’s unrealistic. That’s not my beef at all. Take Conan, for example. He’s pretty high level, right? Throw Conan off a cliff.  What happens?

I’ll tell you what absolutely does not happen:  Conan does not fall to the base of the cliff, impact, and die of his injuries! Even if he’s already tossed a dozen soldiers to their deaths off that same cliff, it’s just not going to happen. Sure, it’s a lethal cliff… but he’ll grab the edge. Or a branch on the way down. Or something. So, by that standard, the classic D&D HP mechanic does its job.  D&D Conan goes over the cliff, marks off some HP, dusts himself off, and keeps on truckin’.

But, then, I’ve got the nagging voice in the back of my head, saying, “Sure, but if he grabbed the edge at the last minute to save himself, why is his miniature now at the bottom of the cliff? Shouldn’t he now engage in an exciting battle of strength, using one arm to fend off the enemy’s kicks? … rather than now being out of reach, telling them that they’re #1 in Cimmerian sign language?”

Myself, I’ll want a game that will focus in tight enough to detail the fending-off-on-the-cliff-edge. GURPS does that for me. The various D&D’s set their focus a bit fuzzier, and accept that the mechanics aren’t going to support certain outcomes, in themselves. That sort of cliff’s-edge detail becomes something injected by the DM.

And if you were playing some kind of war game, where the focus is at a higher level of granularity, you wouldn’t even have talked about the time Conan had the exciting battle against the angry demon worshipers at the top of the Cliffs Of Poor Risk Management. You would roll Conan’s dice once and note down: “Conan sacks temple, takes out 100 gold and 1d4 distressed damsels.”

If the war game were at the level of Risk or the like, Conan himself would be abstracted away. He would be a joke after a good roll:  “My one figure took out your whole temple complex! They must have had Conan along! Hey, little figure guy, what is best in life?”

These aren’t flaws and virtues of the different systems. The problem is figuring out the style and level of detail that you’re looking for, and then choose the system that supports that kind of play. For me, that’s GURPS. Specifically, the 4th edition.  Third was great, but Fourth really knocked off all the barnacles and shined up all the brass.

Is it complicated? You’ll hear this one a lot, but I think folks are just repeating what they heard from a grumpy Usenet post from 1992. You could make the case that some parts of Third Edition were a bit complex. (Hey, I loved GURPS Vehicles. I’m not afraid of a very occasional cube root. I use spreadsheets no matter what game I’m running.***) Fourth Edition does a great job a scaling to whatever your game requires… just so long as you’re clear on what that is.

Carrying on with the sad, threadbare hit points question…

Two other GURPS campaigns, besides the current Dungeon Fantasy one, have appeared in this forum:  the Space Cowboys game, and the Marvel Supers 1200 game. They had some pretty different requirements, when it came to the sturdiness of the PCs.

The Space Cowboys game was designed from the beginning to be low-combat. The goal was to do a “slice of life”, “normal guys in an exotic situation” story. If somebody pulled a gun, the metaphorical soundtrack would do something dramatic and we would cut to commercial. Folks built their characters accordingly. You could feel the difference, in play, in combat, between Bubba and Osolo. If you’re familiar with Firefly, it was like the difference between Jayne and Simon. (If you’re not familiar with Firefly, what are you thinking?!? Stop wasting your time here and go watch it! NOW!)

I haven’t actually tried it — threatened more than once — but based on the Space Cowboys experience, I have no doubt that GURPS could handle a high school slap fight, realistically and satisfyingly. No doubt whatsoever.

At the other end, the Supers 1200 game was based on the Marvel Universe, where folks are more sturdy than in the real world. I knew, up front, that I was going to have to rig the game to make that happen. It’s a beyond-cinematic world. So, acting on advice from the forums, I declared that everybody in the universe who had a name, also had Injury Tolerance: Damage Reduction, which divides injury suffered. Fragile ol’ Aunt May had IT: DR 4, dividing any injury she took by 4. (Face it, it’s easy to put Aunt May into a coma but it’s really hard to put her down for the count. Look at the lady’s history.) Actual heroes had more, lots more. It was strictly explained as plot protection… which is to say, it wasn’t explained at all, just noted as How The World Works.

People addressed the issue in other ways, of course. At least one took Unkillable, and I seem to recall a lot of Regeneration and Very Rapid Healing. The point is, we were able to “bolt on” the ruggedness of comic book characters as needed.

Another thing that you’ll hear from the 1990’s is that GURPS can’t do supers right. I would dispute that. In actual play, Araignee Rose felt like Spider-Man. Goliath felt like… well, Goliath. The other one. The dead one. From the comics. You know what I mean. Again, I’ll admit there used to be a grain of truth to the complaint: I tried to run a supers game in Third Edition and had difficulties, back in the mid-90’s. These days, with the current edition? Nope, no problem. The engine supported it. (My energy level didn’t, but that’s another story for another time.)

I would go so far as to say that in my opinion, in a lot of ways, GURPS did a better job at supers than HERO System. (I haven’t seen the latest edition, so I’m talking FREd and the big blue book that had Seeker about to die on the cover.) I ran HERO System for a long while, and I started to notice that every PC I saw was doing pretty much the same amount of damage, roughly the same chance to hit, same small set of disadvantages… everybody was starting to blur into everybody else. With its tighter, more detailed focus, GURPS fixed that problem.

So, there you go. That’s what I was trying to say before. More of it, at least. 😉

* Ok, I’ll admit it. The thing that drew my attention in the first place was the nifty maps. They were what started me on this road. “What’s this ‘S’ on the wall mean? How about this square with an ‘X’ in it, sitting in the middle of the hallway?” Little did I know, that square with an ‘X’ would turn out to be the most lethal thing thus far in the current dungeon, a pit trap.

** This may come as a shock to some. 😉

*** Not really. Almost. I ran some White Wolf, World of Darkness stuff, way back when, that didn’t have any need for math stronger than counting on fingers. Take that how you will.


So, why not just play D&D?

A lot of my players play various flavors of D&D. I understand there’s a Pathfinder game going on amongst them. I’ve got some of the books on my shelf, plenty enough to run at least two different editions. I’m converting classic Gygaxian monsters and magic items. I’m consciously trying to emulate the 1st edition feel in a lot of things.* I’ve been asked: why not just play D&D?

So, I’m already thinking about this question, when I stumble across this: Why GURPS?  That being the flip side of the question, really.  Why this path, and not that?

What it amounts to is, there’s years and years of good, resonant setting details to plunder in the D&D ecosystem, but the system itself frustrates me to tears.

Oh, I exaggerate.  I can play it. I can even run it. I just prefer to set my level of abstraction differently. I like being able to figure out what happened in the game world from the play in the real world. GURPS is very much rooted in the real world, using measurements from reality wherever possible and aiming to translate the dice rolls into tangible effects within the game world.


For example:  For those who haven’t already become bored to tears with the whole question and don’t know, the D&D “hit point” is an abstraction. If your fighter dies after getting hit 10 times with a sword, taking 50 HP in damage, it doesn’t mean he was literally tagged by a sword 10 times before dying. It could mean that he had 9 narrow escapes, avoided by his high level of skill and luck, only to buy the farm with the final blow. This is all well and good, except… what if that sword had been poisoned? If the first damage-dealing hit actually delivers sword to flesh, poison should be delivered and saving throws made. If, on the other hand, only abstract hit points were lost and no real contact was made, then no poison could be delivered.

This is some really old news, here. It’s been chewed over by about three generations of gamers. That horse isn’t just dead, it’s beaten into bean dip. Just typing it makes me want a nap. ZZZzzz….

Huh? What? Where was I?

Anyway. The point is, I like the level of focus that’s available in GURPS. If you want to play it fast and loose, guesstimating modifiers on the fly, you can. If you want to get down to the most hyper-detailed, drilled-in view possible, that’s available, too. But, either way, it’s aimed at providing a playable simulation of the real world. Turns out, that’s an excellent foundation for building a fantasy upon.

* In particular, I feel there used to be a heavier pulp vibe, more of a Weird Tales feel, that got lost somewhere along the way. I’m an Erol Otus guy, more than an Elmore fan (even if we do both come from the same state).


We made two big mistakes last time, which might explain a couple of “WTF?” moments for the close reader of Session #1.

First, clerics can’t cast Concussion. We have no idea how that slipped in there.

Second, shields do not provide DR, which means The KotBO should have changed his name to “Gimpy” after the troll bit his foot off. This appears to be a mis-reading of the table with shield stats from the basic book.

Our rule, though, is to play it as it lays, so the results still stand. The goblins were stunned, The KotBO still has his foot… but now we know better.


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