Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Enraged Berserk Guys With Battle Fury

We had some discussions Sunday about Berserk. Mo the barbarian has Berserk (Enraged, Battle Fury.) It's the first time the player is running someone with either Enraged or Battle Fury, and he hasn't run a berserker in three editions (he's one of my GURPS 1e vets.)

We had a few moments in the fight when it wasn't clear if he was really being berserk enough.

A few notes:

Enraged (from DFD: Barbarians) expands your combat options for Berserk. It's a more controlled fury. But it's still fury. You just do things like defend yourself (to limited effect) sometimes. That's all - it doesn't imply calculating battle decisions about the best long-term move to make right now. Berserkers don't play chess, they play capture-a-piece-right-now.

Battle Fury means you don't even need to get injured to go berserk. That doesn't mean any hostile action triggers berserk, if it makes no sense (my example was long-range harassing arrow shots that don't hit anyone.) But nine times out of ten, it means if something looks like a fight, you get angry and go to town.

You can still fight smart, but you've got limitations. I discuss them in some depth in Melee Academy: Berserker's Wingman. But the key word in all of the "smart berserk moves" is Attack.

Berserkers are this quote, personified:

Forget about winning and losing, forget about pride and pain: let your opponent graze your skin and you smash into his flesh; let him smash into your flesh and you fracture his bones; let him fracture your bones and you take his life! Do not be concerned with your escaping safely – lay down your life before him! - Bruce Lee, The Tao of Jeet Kune Do

Pretty much, what I expect from any version of Berserk (while you are berserk) is that you ask yourself a series of questions:

- Is there a way to attack right now? If so, do that.*

- If there isn't, what's the shortest path to attacking? Do that.

- If there is no way to attack, ask yourself, do I try to snap out of this or is there some other target I should be going after?

* Grappling this turn so you can do something horrible next turn is fine; re-gripping for a better handhold, not so much. Choosing the most effective of your attack options is fine, too.

Notice that there isn't a lot of "Hmmm, I'm in close combat with a wolverine and I've got a shield on my arm. I could attack it, but it makes more sense to try to shake the shield off first because it is -DB to my attack rolls" and a lot of "I bash with wolverine with my shield" or "I head butt the wolverine" or "I drop my fine magical weapon and grab the wolverine so I can choke it to death and throw it at my next enemy!"

Knocked prone and can't reach a foe? Get to kneeling and fight from there. Get to kneeling and someone is right there? Attack with whatever the fastest weapon to come to hand is - and hands are pretty fast, if they're within punching or grappling distance (general, Close Combat). Kneeling and no one is nearby but you've got a throwing weapon? Stand up and charge or throw it at someone! Or both.

Basically, it's attack, attack, attack, attack, attack. All of your maneuvers should be about maximizing your ability to attack right now. Making moves to ensure a better option later? That's not berserk. People fear berserkers because they don't do that - because they'll attack into a disadvantage not caring if they die to kill you. The moment you start making informed decisions about smarter options instead of choosing the best attack to hand, you start to veer away from the disadvantage.

Disadvantage - that's a key word. In many games, video and tabletop, berserker is an advantage. You get rage powers that make you tougher, harder to fight against, more effective in combat, harder to kill, etc. and they run out and leave you tired. In GURPS, Berserk gives you points back. You are less versatile in combat. You are harder to kill and knock out, which is a curse mixed with a blessing as you tend to end fights either fine or chopped halfway to hamburger by foes you couldn't beat and who couldn't put you down. You are a danger to yourself and others.

This is why you get points for Berserk.


  1. Why is the sign-out button where everyone else put the Publish button? (lost my post).

    My second favorite berserker moment was when my minotaur got his leg broken by a wight/wraith thing. Hands and knees, "charge" with horns into the back of the wight, not because thrust impaling was particularly good but because he was out of his flipping *mind* and could hurt it *right now* if he did that.

    My *favorite* berserker moment was when the enemy archer shot him in *both eyes* and he managed to keep his Berserk on by chasing the archer blindly around the battlefield via Discriminatory Smell. Productive? Not really. Correct behavior for someone foaming crazy-go-nuts? Yup. Entertaining? Absolutely.

    Don't play a full-on berserker unless you're committed to the idea of biting, scratching, kicking, clawing, head-butting, chewing, frothing crazy.

    I haven't had a chance to play the "watered down" Enraged version, but it may be the only way my group lets me play a Berserker again :)

    1. That's impressively berserk alright.

      Enraged is fun - it gives you additional choices, and then you end up going for AOA anyway because +4 to hit or 2 attacks is just so tempting . . .

  2. That's "Mrugnak, the insane berserker" +Mlangsdorf was talking about on your Berserker's Wingman comment thread.
    Designed around having as much HP as possible so he'd be hard to cripple or knock down, and then piling on as much armor as possible because he'd never get to block or parry.

    I don't think he would have been so much trouble if the thief in the party didn't think "make Mrugnak go berserk" was the solution to every problem.

  3. My personal third favorite berserker moment (Emily has the top two, above) was while running Mirror the Fire Demon. The PCs were fighting a group of berserkers, and the PC Scout was shooting cutting arrows at their unarmored feet, crippling them and causing them to go prone. Since they couldn't get up, they proceeded to crawl toward the PCs, through about 7 hexes of knife grass, at 1d-4 cu damage per hex. There was a path around the grass, but the berserkers couldn't take it since it was the longer route. They finally arrived at the PCs' feet and began making wild strikes while prone, but they were pretty badly cut up by that point, and a couple didn't make it.

    The image of these frothing madman crawling through the deadly grass and dying on the way just cracked us up. Berserk: its a Disadvantage for a reason.


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