Thursday, May 9, 2013

GURPS Melee Academy - Stop Hit

"When a man is coming toward you, you need not say: "Come here." "
  - Ashanti Proverb

Wait can be a tricky option in GURPS. Deferring an action, or even just part of one, in a rolling turn sequence system can get complicated quickly.
Knowing when to defer an action to an external trigger* can be tricky. Digesting all of the options that you have when you Wait only adds to it. This Melee Academy post focuses on Wait, and its options and uses.

* For example, "I Wait and Attack the first guy who comes in range" or "I pull this rope tight after the first guy comes through the door."

Stop Hit

"Dorian attacked - and died.
[. . .]
Dorian had not been a great swordman, but he was certainly skilled. Yet the old man had batted aside the slashing sword and in one flowing motion returned the attack , all without moving his feet."

- David Gemmell, "Against the Horde" (aka "Legend")

Druss does a lot of Stop Hits.

I like to think that's best represented in GURPS by a Stop Hit. Yes, it could also be a Parry and Counterattack, but the "one flowing motion" makes it sound like Druss swept right through the attack. He does that a lot.

But Stop Hits are a risky move.

How so?

You're betting that:

- your opponent will attack you with an attack you can Parry.

- that you will win (what effectively is) a Quick Contest of Skills and get your strike in first, forcing him into a -1 to defend (-3 to defend with the same weapon).

- that you will be able to defend after all is said and done - and if you lose or tie, you're doing so at a penalty. If not, you get a normal defense.

Why Not Just Wait?

A normal Wait action will let you interrupt and attack first - which forces him to defend and might forestall an attack in the first place. If you hit and he fails to defend, you might take him out, stun him, cripple a limb, inflict enough Shock penalty that he'll miss, force him to Parry with his Parry U weapon, make him decide to Retreat and take himself out of his own reach in exchange for that plus to defend. Really, going first has all sorts of advantages.

But there are cases where that Stop Hit risk is really your best choice.

Double-Dagger - a double-daggered weapon needs to be re-readied after an attack. You can't Parry with it while it's unready, you can't attack. But Stop Hit lets you ignore that and get the Parry anyway, since you're combining your motions into one and hoping it both parries the incoming attack and hits your opponent. This way you get both, and you can re-Ready on your next turn.

Parry U, and Bad Defenses - If parry is your best option, and you can't really rely on your Dodge (below 1/3 HP, maybe?) or Block (or don't have a shield) or your off-hand Parry (or don't have one), and your weapon can't both attack and defend on the same turn, think about Stop Hit. You can still Parry, and still attack, without going for a weaker Defensive Attack.

You're just that much better - if you're sure you're going to be attacked, and sure you can beat your own skill by a better margin than your opponent can, this is a good option. You'll win the contest and defend normally, and inflict extra defense penalties on your opponent.

Your opponent is heavily penalized - the more penalties on your opponent, the better, but this way you make it more likely you'll hit first, or hit and not be hit in return.

Stop Hit Oddities: This option somewhat amusingly makes aimed attacks and Deceptive Attacks against you riskier, because of the lower effective skill. And if makes it risky for you to do them in return. Oddly Telegraphic Attacks might get in first (+4 is a big plus to your skill) but make the Stop Hitter more likely to parry, reducing the risk of trying it.*

* If that sort of thing bothers you, you can resolve Stop Hit with an additional Quick Contest of Skill vs. Skill that doesn't take into account bonuses or penalties on the "to hit" roll. It's an extra roll, but not a terribly onerous one as it doesn't come up that often. It further aids the skilled guys, who benefit from both raw skill and the ability to aim shots and make them Deceptive Attacks during a Stop Hit.

Again, none of this is safe. Stop Hits are a gamble, and they can be a big gamble. I'm already anticipating comments that boil down to "no one does these because there are safer options." Yes, there are. Yes, most people will choose the safer options. But if you have some restrictions on Parry, or your so much better you're confident you can win the contest, or you really need to inflict a penalty to defend, it's an option. If you are skilled, aggressive, and under attack, this can be "free" penalties to defend for your opponent. Take your chances and go for it, and you might sweep aside his attack, too, and return it in a Druss-like life-ending swing. Only the dice will tell . . .

More Melee Academy Links

Other contributions can be found:

Orbs and Balrogs - Christian Blouin writes about creating and holding combat initiative
RPG Snob - Jason Packer throws down about combat pacing
Gaming Ballistic - Douglas Cole writes about using Wait to grapple.
No School Grognard - Mark Langsdorf writes about tactical positioning.


  1. You talk about having to parry an attack before being able to Stop Hit. I guess this is just my previous real world training getting in the way of gaming mechanics, but I trained in Stop Hits that never involved an actual parry though of course some did (usually simultaneously with an attack). Now that my analytical brain has ruined my sense of fun yet again, I'm off to read the last of four Melee Academy posts.

    1. It's a term of art, so it doesn't necessarily map one to one with all real world techniques that use the same name.

      We needed one that said "attack into his attack" and Stop Hit wasn't being used, and some real-world stop hits do plow right through in incoming attack, frustrating it and driving the hit home. That's the core of what the mechanic does.

    2. This runs smack into an oft-seen issue on this type of discussion, seen over and over (and over . . .) on the Forums too. The name of a thing is secondary to the mechanics of a thing.

      There's a pretty heated argument going on over there right now over "face," "skull," "brain," "eye," and "head" hit locations, much of which is complicated by people using terms (or non-terms, in the case of 'brain') colloquially that GURPS uses technically.

      Stop Hit, Feint, Riposte, Counterattack are such terms, and really need to be parsed in terms of mechanics, not names. Hell, parry and block vs. Parry and Block can qualify for that too!

    3. "Hell, parry and block vs. Parry and Block can qualify for that too!"

      While they're distinct in GURPS, Hero uses "Block" for both shields and weapons, while RuneQuest uses "Parry" for both shields and weapons.

      It does get muddied.

    4. One of my wishes for 5th ed, if it ever happens, is "clarify the nomenclature, dammit."

    5. That would be nice, but it won't stop issues like "How come I can't block with my arm? I do it in karate class" and "ripostes don't require blade-to-blade contact" and all of that. There will always be terms of art that don't have a 100% overlap with real-world usage of those terms.

      And GURPS isn't bad with it - it never uses "Block" to mean "Parry," even if it doesn't spend a lot of time tightly defining what every term means exhaustively.

    6. Yes, GURPS is very internally consistent - I was really referring to block (what we're told we're doing in class) vs block (using a shied in GURPS), and sometimes even Block (with caps, it always refers to the score or roll).


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