Monday, June 17, 2013

Upgrading the GURPS Evaluate Manuever

The GURPS Evaluate manuever isn't particularly potent.

What does Evaluate give you now?

For each consecutive turn you take Evaluate, you get the following (italics means something from GURPS Martial Arts)

- a +1 on the next Attack, Feint, All-Out Attack, Committed Attack, Defensive Attack, or Move and Attack made against the person you Evaluate against.

- (optional) negate -1 in defense penalty from a Deceptive Attack or Feint from the person you've Evaluating (which doesn't "cost" your Evaluate, but goes away once you use it/lose it.)

- the same bonus to non-combat skills that benefit from close examination.

That's it, really. It's a melee version of Aim, largely, and while it does give some benefits they aren't that much compared to all the other things you could be doing - such as what Doug outlined here. And while it is a melee version of Aim, melee weapons don't suffer the built-in penalties for range that come with missile weapons, nor gain the Accuracy bonus for aiming - making an "Aim"-like maneuver less of a hit-or-not decision.

What else could it give you?

Since Evaluate is often ignored because of its relatively small benefits, what else could it do? Here are some options.

- Act as a Defensive Feint, too. In other words, also give a -1 to hit per level for the opponent who you are Evaluating.

(At a maximum, this would mean you could give an opponent -3 to hit you, negate -3 of penalties from Feint and Deceptive Attack, and give you a +3 when you finally retaliate. This could potential turn a Skill 18 guy following a Feint victory by 5 points and launching a Deceptive Attack -2 into an 11 or less to hit and only a -2 for you to defend if it lands, instead of 14 and -7.)

- Act as a focused version of All-Out Defend, giving a bonus to defend against the one attacker of +1/2 of your attack bonus, rounded up, for each turn you Evaluate (netting out to +1, +1, and +2). This would not "use up" the bonus, and would stack with bonuses from Feverish Defense. Using All-Out Defense would end your Evaluate and thus the bonus, so they could not stack. This would have no effect against any other attacker. Unlike All-Out Defense, this would affect any defense against an attack launched by the person you are evaluating, making it superior to AOD in a one-on-one duel assuming you have the luxury of 3+ seconds to Evaluate.

- Evaluate can give a random bonus - 1d6-3 per turn, minimum 1. You'd usually get a +1, but might get a +2 or +3 in one turn. This adds an element of chance and potentially let you fully Evaluate a target in only a single glance.

- Evaluate might be a Quick Contest, using your Per + your best Melee weapon skill versus the DX-based Melee weapon skill of your opponent. Your margin of victory, up to 3, is your Evaluate bonus. It lasts until you use it or stop taking Evaluate as your maneuver. You are aware of how much you notice, and can choose to re-roll the contest if you want a better result.

Out of all of those, I like the first two the best. It might be a little much to use all of them - if 3 turns of Evaluate gives a +3 to hit, -3 to be hit, +2 to defend, and negates 3 points of Feint and Deceptive Attack, it's a little too powerful. It would make a wary relative novice (skill 12) able to easily fend off the best moves of a skilled attacker (skill 18). But either of "minus to hit" (the free Defensive Feint) or "bonus to defend" (the focused AOD) would make Evaluate a really useful tool when you think you need to ensure you don't get hit until you've got a real chance to attack effectively. It also avoids tramping on AOD (which is still more useful against multiple foes, or right now) and Defensive Feints. I'm split on which one I like better - it might be useful to offer it as an option (you pick, either +1 to defend or -1 to be hit.)

Also importantly, it neither makes Evaluate free, nor makes All-Out Defense or Defensive Feint less useful. It's still better to All-Out Defend if you want to take advantage of multiple defenses, or get more move on a Dodge, or have multiple attackers (instead of the "featureless plain duel.")

I think in my own games I'll give one of those a try - probably the "+ to defend against one guy" version, and see how it works out.


  1. I've tried increasing the bonus for Evaluate to +2/turn to a max of +6 (not stacking with Telegraphic attack). I thought it made for a better trade-off for sneak attacks: if you have time, you can Evaluate for +6 and get a really good hit in, but if you're in a hurry, you may just make a Telegraph attack and move on.

    In play, no one ever seemed to remember the bonus for Evaluate so it didn't matter.

    1. So it never got used?

      Part of the reason I didn't suggest a bigger plus is that I think it's not the + to hit that's the issue. More would be nice, but it's probably not going to sway someone to use it. But with a mix of bonuses it might be useful for someone slightly outmatched or cautious to use in order to really balance out the skill mismatch. Or maximize it.

  2. I've toyed with the idea of providing a stacking bonus to damage as well as to hit. The damage bonus is only +1 per turn, and only applies to the first attack made (if you're able to launch multiple attacks). In addition, should your attack be defended (but doesn't fail) after Evaluating, you may preserve your previous to hit bonus if you Evaluate again during your next turn (although your damage bonus is always lost and must be regained).

    This gives an incentive for players who deem Evaluate a wasted chance of applying some damage, and encourages its use against more heavily armoured foes (both because of the damage bonus, and because the to-hit bonus enables them to better target chinks).

    Having the bonus to-hit preserve even after your foe has successfully defended (should you go back to Evaluating for a turn) also means you've not wasted three entire turns of Evaluate for nothing. It also means you should (in theory) get lulls and flurries of action with a varying tempo as attacks are defended or land home and so require different lengths of 'wait' before you strike again.

    In theory using the MA defence rules in addition to these rules would work, although it may cause some fights to last much longer when two skilled fighters keep using Evaluate on each other. Although that said, this may actually be considered a good thing, GURPS fights can be over in a matter of seconds - and rarely resemble that of those seen in films.

    1. I like the idea of keeping the bonus if you follow the next turn with another Evaluate, essentially allow for Eval/Eval/Eval/Attack/Eval/Attack/Eval/etc. for a cautious fighter. I'd be less inclined to give Evaluate more bonuses, though, or you might end up with it being superior in a one-on-one situation than most other options - imagine if you get a +3 to hit, negate -3 in DA and Feint, and get +2 to defend against that guy and use Defensive Attack for a further +1 to defend. You'd never want to screw it up with an AOD, say. "Keep your bonus if you re-evaluate on the turn following using your Evaluate bonus" is pretty generous on its own, with the current benefits.

      I wouldn't personally have a damage plus, because I don't see how carefully observing your foe for openings makes you hit harder. It just seems like an unjustified addition.

    2. The bonus damage is meant to represent choosing the most ideal time to strike, enabling you to use your foes movement against them to increase the force of the blow, or to just target less well guarded areas/more sensitive areas that you've assessed a clever way of hitting by Evaluating them (hence being lost even if the attack doesn't land, your foe is aware of where you were attacking or is simply moving differently now).

      As for stacking other bonuses, I only suggest the -3 to DA and Feint attempts (and I'm still not sure about even that), which - like the damage bonus - are lost whenever you attack (even if the attack is successfully defended) and must be regained with further Evaluating.

      Also the objective of the preserving Evaluate is to allow sequences like:
      Eval/Eval/Eval/Attack (defended)/Eval/Attack (hit)/Eval/Eval/Eval/Attack... etc
      Where each attack has a +3 to hit, although only the first and last would have a +3 to damage.

      The reason I've been toying with damage bonuses is because of the perceived 'waste' of potential damage that could be dealt when you're of high skill and there is no reason not to just attack each round. The damage can be reduced to a +1/+1/+2 stepping if it seems too high for just observing your foe.

      As there are a number of ways to get bonuses to damage, from different grips and attack options, and the damage doesn't add per die, I don't see it as being too powerful. It should however be a good incentive when you need to eke out every last point of damage or need to consolidate your damage dealing into as few attacks as possible due to the risks of attacking (like when your opponent enjoys dismembering their attacks with Wait manoeuvres to target the attacking limb).

    3. It's not that it's too powerful, it's basically saying the more you observe a target, the harder you hit it - irrespective of your strength. The fact that it doesn't scale means it's even odder - at the low end of damage it's even more useful, and at the high end less so.

      Also, if you implemented it, I'd want it to apply to anything my character hit when he had 3 seconds to do it - +3 damage versus doors, +3 damage when I sneak attack someone and have time to wait, etc.

      I just think it has less justification in other game rules and oddly ties observation to improved ability to do damage (if I don't look and just swing hard, I do less damage than if I look carefully first).

      I'm not saying it's impossible to come up with a good explanation, just that the explanation leads me to a lot more "yeah but . . ." than "oh cool!" and I'd personally not want to use it that way.

    4. What about if Evaluate allowed you to do full damage?
      1 sec, roll (1-2)=2, (3-4)=4, (5-6)=6
      2 sec, roll (1-3)=3, (4-6)=6
      3 sec, 6

    5. What about if Evaluate allowed you to do full damage?
      1 sec, roll (1-2)=2, (3-4)=4, (5-6)=6
      2 sec, roll (1-3)=3, (4-6)=6
      3 sec, 6

  3. Proofreading: Evaluate gives +1, +2, +3, so half those values rounded up should be +1, +1, +2, no? Rather than +1, +2, +2


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