Friday, May 1, 2015

My take on Snap Cut: Snap Strike

Over on Michael Eversberg II's blog Chain Link and Concrete, there is a nice idea for a combat option, the Snap Cut.

It's a very nice idea - trade some damage for a tricky, speedy shot. It's a gap that is worth filling in the options on the table. It's one that has come up, but I don't think I every fully ran with the ideas that I've had about how to deal with these kinds of strikes.

However, as written uses a flat tradeoff of damage for penalties to the opponent to defend. That's problematic in a high-powered game as the article notes it might be. Even my beginning DF front line fighters generally have 3d+8 or more damage. Many monsters are doing in the 4d to 10d range with bonuses on top (Mungo was doing 8d+24).

While it's funny to muse about letting Mungo do "Snap Cuts" at -20 damage for -10 to defend and merely roll 8d+4, you can see the problem - strong people can take more off of their blow and reduce defenses. Even a per-die minus is merely more painful, but nearly always worth it (Mungo doing -3 to defend for doing 8d instead of 8d+24, say, or Vryce doing 3d+3 instead of 3d+12.) Especially against fodder and glass cannon monsters, where hitting is the issue (Eye of Death, for example.)

In the comments, I offered my own take on Snap Cut. Naturally, I used the Technique Design System from GURPS Martial Arts.

I came up with two options, both of which I renamed here to Snap Strike so there isn't confusion about thrusting being disallowed:

Combat Option: Snap Strike
You trade off some damage for speed with a quick strike that doesn't get your full body behind the blow. Can be used with any Melee attack. Your attack, if it hits, does -2 damage or -1 per die, whichever is worse. If it hits, you opponent suffers a -1 to defend. This can be combined with All-Out Attack or Committed Attack, but not with the (Strong) option.

(Built as:
+4 for -2 damage or -1 per die.
-4 for -1 to all defenses (-1 to the first is -2 default, the other two are half cost)
Net: -0)

(Note that this effectively makes sport, touch=victory skills always -1 to defend against, because you may as well Snap Strike since damage is a non-issue.)

or you can use a technique, which I've also rolled up into a Power Up.

Snap Cut, Hard
Default: prerequisite skill-4.
Prerequisite: Any unarmed or Melee Weapon skill; cannot exceed prerequisite skill.

You trade off some damage for speed with a quick strike that doesn't get your full body behind the blow. Can be used with any Melee attack. Your attack, if it hits, does -2 damage or -1 per die, whichever is worse. If it hits, you opponent suffers a -2 to defend. This can be combined with All-Out Attack or Committed Attack, but not with the (Strong) option.

(Built as:
+4 for -2 damage or -1 per die.
-8 for -2 to all defenses (-2 to the first is -4 default, the other two are half cost at -2 each)
Net: -0)

As a DF Power-Up, the second one comes out like this:

Snap Strike*
6 points
Prerequisites: Any unarmed or Melee Weapon skill, ST 11+, and either Weapon Master or Trained By A Master.

You trade off some damage for speed with a quick strike that doesn't get your full body behind the blow. Can be used with any Melee attack. Your attack, if it hits, does -2 damage or -1 per die, whichever is worse. If it hits, you opponent suffers a -2 to defend. This can be combined with All-Out Attack or Committed Attack, but not with the (Strong) option.

Perks: Unique Technique (Snap Strike) [1].
Techniques: Snap Strike (H) Skill+0 [5].*

Remember the * means you must specialize by a combat skill. The prereqs are there to keep out the non-fighters. It's a DF Power Up, after all.

Another option on these, if the defense penalty seems too small, is to do one of two things:

1) Make it a +4 to Hit Combat Option. Remove the inherent defense penalty, and just saying taking -2 damage or -1 per die (whichever is worse) is something anyone can do to get a +4 to hit. It's the "don't hit the fly full power" thing. Then you can trade that +4 for a -2 to all defenses via Deceptive Attack. Be warned, though, this means an All-Out Attack (Determined) Telegraphic Attack Snap Strike against a weak target (or a touch-only-needed target) is +12 to hit.

2) Change the balance of defense penalties. Making it only hard to Dodge, say, at -4 to Dodge but normal Block and Parry. Or -2 to Dodge and -2 Parry, and reduce Snap Strike to Prereq-2. Maybe shields help against these because they only have to be in the way, not actively be moved in reaction.

I just want to repeat that although I've basically rewritten the concept in the post I linked to above, I really like the concept. Anything that makes me read it, and drop what I'm doing and write for 15 minutes before I leave for work is a good concept. It's just that I didn't want my comments to lay quietly in the comments section.


  1. The basic form feels like Counterattack, since you're taking a -4 to hit and a damage penalty to get -2 to defenses, which you could get just by taking a -4 to hit. It's not as bad if you buy it up, though.

    1. Yes, like counterattack, you need to pay for it to matter. The combat option makes a lot more sense for that reason - it's always a tradeoff potentially worth making.

  2. The damage penalty seems way too low. How about half damage?
    It feels like a snap jab, we all know those feel like a lot less than -1 damage.

    1. Even at -4 damage or -2 per die, whichever is worse, it's probably still a must have for a Weapon Master. I think...

    2. The issue with "half damage" is, it's trading a variable cost for a fixed result. So it's useful only in an odd range of cases - relatively weak fighters can't afford it, because they have so little damage to trade. Strong ones are charged so much they shouldn't bother. It's useful only in a very narrow range of cases.

      Plus, it's hard to put a fixed value on "half damage."

  3. Wait...for 6 points, Bjorn could have snap strike with his axe, and if he aims at the neck (only -2 due to slayer training), he would hit on 16 or under and give -2 to defenses (equivalent to a -4 deceptive) and would then do 3d+5 cutting to the neck? It sounds like a GREAT use of 6 points. Could this be combined with Rapid Strike (13 net skill on each attack)? This could be really awesome. It might be where he spends his next 6 pts (assuming he survives any upcoming sessions). I mean, in a way, it's like going from Axe/Mace 18 to 22 with slightly reduced damage for 6 points. Hard to pass up if I understand it correctly.

    1. I'm just presenting it as a rule approach, I'm not saying I'll use it in game. But I think you did the numbers right on it.

  4. I'm almost certain that -1 per die would make this the default option for most combatants. Optional rules shouldn't be so good as to become the default option.

    Half rolled damage sounds balanced, and also fairer at low ST. When you strike for 1d-2, swatting a small rate comes dangerously close to no damage.

    On the other hand, this is a *really* good occasion to avoid U parries on unbalanced weapons, or strike every turn with double-daggers weapons.

    Alternate suggestion: Make the low-damage snap cut a middle-ground between an attack and a feint, where it improves your next attack, because your weapon comes back into striking position faster than they recover from their defensive move. (Fighting game players will know this as abusing block-stun.) This stops it from cutting down swarms of moods, because it only ever works on opponents you need you need to attack twice.

    1. Like I said with half damage above, it's hard to put a value on it, and it's a variable cost for a fixed effect, which only gets used when people feel like it's lopsided in their favor.

      And if -2 damage or -1 per die would be the default, then shouldn't Defensive Attack already be the default for a lot of people? +1 Parry or using a Parry U weapon without worrying about attack or parry for a small damage reduction. Fact is, for a lot of fighters, -2 or -1 per die is really painful to give up, for something they could have gotten by giving up 2 points of skill.

      The middle ground might be a valid different tactics, but this approach in reality is all about getting a quick in. In Filipino stickfighting, we used to use a technique that did exactly this - a wrist-only strike meant to hit a high-value target. It wasn't really a setup, and it wasn't about improving your next strike.

    2. Trading Attack (power) for Defense is a trade off. Trading Attack (power) for Attack (accuracy) is an optimization. Killing stuff and not getting hurt are competing objectives, and the tradeoffs is increased defense for reduced ability to accomplish your objective; in the case of snap strike, it's whatever kills stuff *more*, there isn't actually a downside.

      I don't think they absolutely have to be treated the same.

  5. Ah, it's always exciting when someone runs with one of my ideas!

    Doing this up as a technique does have its virtues. For one, technique creation has an actual framework that the result can be verified against, whereas this is just sort of purely made up. And from my understanding of the GURPS rules, your techniques look like they would play out just about right, too.

    I'd initially considered Techniques briefly (as I'd done before in Stop Hitting Yourself!), but I decided I did not want it tied to a specific weapon, as I felt it really was more to do with raw DX than knowledge of a particular weapon - at that time. Now, however, I'm seeing the virtue of it being tied to a specific weapon skill.

    I was more thinking along the lines of things like Tip Slash, which is an attack mode rather than a maneuver, when creating this. In retrospect I think I kind of lost that bit of clarity and it sort of merged into a maneuver, since I was using maneuvers we had with similar mechanics as an example.

    You (et al) are correct; this breaks down in Dungeon Fantasy power levels. I'd only given a very brief mention of that within my post, since I figured this would be a tossaway and I wouldn't provide much value going into DF level stats. Or, more likely, I had a time crunch :p

    It is very good that you bring up the DF side of things; I've seen your posts and know you are much more familiar with that perspective than I. In my typical games, rarely does anyone exceed about ST12-13 - which is what I expect a normal "strong guy" to be. This tendency (low fantasy kind of stuff) tends to inform how I think about the GURPS world.

    On thrusts, I felt that maybe a lot of the damage from a thrust came from its depth, and this wouldn't appear to go all that deep into you. (Also, my framing was induced by a video on swords). I wouldn't say allowing a thrust to do this is wrong, however!

    Vic, above, did identify a glaring oversight, though, as I give absolutely no mention about Unbalanced weapons. My off the cuff assumption is that an Unbalanced weapon wouldn't be able to pull one of these off very well. It could be that this mode would penalize them harder in damage, but avoid them becoming unavailable.

    As you mention, this maneuver/attack mode (which do you think my version is better stated as?) is very great in Combat Sport. Kendoka appear to use something like this all the time - a quick snap strike that does hit fairly hard, but were it a real sword I don't think it would maximize the weapon's potential. Maybe.

    Boffer tags games in general are definitely rife with this; in my schoolyard days a light tap was much the same as a full powered hew by most people's interpretations.

    One critique I would have is that Telegraphic should be wholly incompatible with this maneuver, so your +12 to hit example is maybe a little less than accurate. Well, your interpretation can include Telegraphic if you like, but I don't think they fit together. I'm also a bit iffy on Determined.

    I wasn't exaggerating too much when I said I whipped this up on the quick; the Video I was watching made a reference to a snap cut, and I immediately started laying it down. Not bad for a first draft I think. Maybe some of you guys here can get some actual table use for it sometime!

    In any event, I am excited that this did get some notice; always encouraging to know my thoughts go somewhere.


    1. Glad you enjoyed it. Vic's barbarian has a Dwarven axe, so no Parry U on it, and it's not Unbalanced, either. In his gigantic mitts it's as light and quick as any other one-handed weapon can be that isn't a fencing weapon.

      I do need to make it explicit that this can't layer with Telegraphic. Although T.A. is already pretty clear about how it negates a whole raft of defensive penalties. Sticking this option as a special case under Deceptive Attack would also do the same thing. But it's worth spelling it out, just like how it doesn't go with (Strong).

      The worry about sports is real, though - it's a + you will always see. Telegraphic Attack is a +4 to hit anything that doesn't defend, for example, and this would be the default mage's attack with any staff carrying a Melee spell.

      It's got some issues that need to get ironed out. I may have to revisit it and add in some additional quirks to it so it's not such a big default. Maybe critical failures with it are always "Drop your weapon" in addition to any other rolled effect, or perhaps I need to expand the damage penalties and expand the defense penalties, so it's a much weaker strike, or something like that. After all, there are a lot of consequences to saying that anything done lightly is -1 to defend, which is what having it as written above really does.

  6. Wouldn't it be worthwhile to count extra damage as dice on a 2d per 7 points basis (with 3 or more points left over being 1d more)? So, your 8d+24 guy would count as 8d plus another 4d for the 24 point bonus (21 pts = 3d, plus 3 more points giving one more die), and so take a -12 per point of defense, bringing it to 8d-12 for the -3 to defenses (average damage of 16 instead of 52).

    1. Which, by the way, is entirely separate from the new technique there, but rather a general question about modifiers that add or subtract per die.

    2. You could, but it wouldn't be consistent with how other flat or per-die bonuses and penalties go. Players would rightly squawk when All-Out Attack (Strong) is +2 or +1 per die, and ignores pluses, and Snap Strike is -2 or -1 per die, and treats pluses as dice for calculating the penalty. So you'd want to do that for everything. If you do that, you get iterative issues. For example:

      Bjorn does 3d-1 base swing.
      Axe is +3 (oversized)
      Weapon Master is +2 per die for a further +6
      total 3d+8

      Do I treat that as 3d for AOA and Snap Strike, and thus +3 or -3, or convert to 5d+1 and treat it as +5 or -5 and do 5d+6 or 5d-4, or treat it and convert back and do 3d+13 and 3d+3?

      Both seem like they take extra steps.

      The example with Mungo will show why it won't happen, too - you'd need to calculating the "real" dice for every fighter and monsters, not just use what's calculated already. Take this from someone who used to play with dice + adds but had to note the real base dice for Weapon Master in 3e - it's a solid, steady, continuous pain over the course of a campaign!

    3. OK, I see what you're saying. It looks like the only way it could be practical would be to take a page from 3.X D&D and label every modifier then apply per die adds only to the base dice: "3d-1 +3 (weapon) +6 (weapon master)" or at least "3d+2 +6 (weapon master)". Even doing that, it would get tedious quickly.

    4. The way GURPS handles damage is, as Peter notes, always going to make this a painful issue with any damage modification. (I'm always noodling around with ways to get off of the current Xd6+sum(y(i))+X*sum(z(j)) system, but haven't really found anything that seems unambiguously better yet.)

      For "Snap Attack" I might consider "You attack at 70%[1] of your rated ST." instead, with a footnote that if that's below min ST (etc.) you take the associated penalties. This also requires various recalculations, but has two things I like:
      - It discourages snap attacks with stuff that is already heavy.
      - It encourages snap attacks against mooks - you don't need to calculate the 70% - because it's just gonna be enough.

      [1] I'm not committed to that specific % either. It might need to be 80 or 60, or maybe 80% for -1, 60% for -2 etc. (Useful vs. killer flies, or Mungo vs. normal humans.)


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