This is part of a multi-blog look at disarming.
For more on this specific topic, check out the links on Doug's page:
Melee Academy: Disarms in four systems
For more Melee Academy posts, please take a look at the Melee Academy page at Gaming Ballistic.
I don't see a lot of disarming attempts in my GURPS games. Armed attempts, rarely. Unarmed attempts, almost never.
For disarming to really be useful, you need a number of cases to all be true at the same time:
- your opponent's weapon is the most dangerous (or only dangerous) weapon they possess.
- your opponent's weapon must be more vulnerable than your opponent; that is, it must be easier to disarm the opponent than to just cripple, incapacitate, or kill the opponent.
- you must have some reason not to directly attack your opponent for damage.
- you must feel you can overcome the opponent's defenses against the weapon and overmatch his ST or DX based weapon skill with yours in a Quick Contest. Which means you're net/net more skilled than your opponent, or stronger, or both, by a margin that exceeds the better of his scores.
Break the sword?
Even if all of those are true, it's generally a little easier to attack the weapon to destroy it than to disarm with skill and grace or with brute force. You also need one of these cases to be true to make disarm worth more than attacking the weapon to destroy it:
- you either can't damage the weapon at all (it's invulnerable to your attacks, but is still possible to remove from the enemy)
- you don't want to damage the weapon (it's valuable loot, you need to pick it up and use it, you hope to give it back to the foe if it's also someone you don't want to harm.)
(Low Tech Companion 2 (p. 22) stats out a lot of lower-tech weapon DR, HP, and HT. I wrote that, so thank me when you snap someone's nunchaku chain.)
Those are tough cases to satisfy in a game.
Generally, you are better off:
- Attacking the limb (base -2, which is easier than hitting most weapons) or hand (base -4, not much harder than striking the weapon.) You only need to inflict injury greater than HP/2 for a limb, HP/3 for an extremity.
- Crippling a supporting limb. If you can cut a leg or foot out from someone and cause them to fall (automatic, if you cripple it), they will be in a poor position to use a weapon.
- Knockdown and Stunning comes with the bonus that they drop their held weapons. Locations such as the Skull, Face, and Groin are good locations for causing such effects.
- Accumulating some damage on the target. Shock can apply up to a -4 to the defender's retaliatory attacks, and eventually any target will run out of HP. You can make an attack less viable via Shock penalties and get you closer to ending the risk of counterattack at all as the foe eventually drops.
Not only that, but most of the above also significantly reduces the chances of the opponent to successfully continue to fight. And they work against natural weapons, too, in most cases - you can't disarm a dragon's claw but you can potentially hack it off at the wrist/ankle.
The tactics above reflect my own real-world armed martial arts experience - Filipino Martial Arts makes a big deal of defanging the snake. You want to get rid of a knife? Slice the knife hand or arm. Get rid of a stick? Break the stick hand or arm. Want to avoid the issue at all? Follow your limb strike with a finishing blow. Unlike the movies, you can't just sweep aside someone's blade and stand together watching it fly away. The high-percentage moves are damaging strikes, and GURPS reflects that, and so does my experience. Want to keep the guy with the axe from chopping you? Incapacitate him. And if you can't do that, remove his limb. Can't do that, break his weapon. Can't do that? Then disarm is starting to look good. The easy way to disarm a foe is to pull his weapon from his cold, dead hands.
You can make this all easier in play, but it's hard to get buy in from players - they're generally the most enthusiastic users of weapons, and in a fantasy game they depend on them more than the monsters. No one wants it to be too easy to disarm.
In a cinematic game, of course, it should be easier. Take a look at genre switches like Unarmed Etiquette (Martial Arts, p. 132) and Gun Control Law (Martial Arts, p. 132), if you just want to privilege unarmed or let folks kick guns out of other people's hands.
In my last game session, a fighter facing a were-creature seemingly immune to his attacks used disarm against the were's axe. It worked on the third try - he failed twice, once after successfully triggering a Quick Contest of Skills (the werebear used ST-based weapon skill, which was considerable) and once because he either missed or the were defended (I forget.) The third time worked because he rolled a 3 on the initial attempt to make contact with the weapon, so I just ruled it worked automatically. Even then, that's only because if I treated his ST-based weapon skill Quick Contest roll as a 3 he had a serious chance vs. the were's ST-based skill. The were was rolling versus something in the high 20s vs. the PC's 20 (Axe/Mace @ DX+6, ST 16, -2 for a non-fencing weapon.) I might not have extended the same courtesy if the PC's net skill was too low, anymore than I'd allow a 3 from tiny foe to automatically disarm a PC.
He didn't attack the axe because they believe it is special in some way, and he wanted to hit the were with it (spoilers: he did, and if it's special it's not that kind of special - it was harmless, too.) Had his weapon been able to tell on the werebear, he'd have been hacking the body, slicing the neck, or trying to shatter its skull. Disarming? A low-percentage tactic that paid off with a low-percentage roll (A 3 on 3d6 is 1-in-216).