Thursday, July 14, 2016

GURPS 101: Stunning and Knockdown and consciousness rolls

GURPS has two broad circumstances where you roll against HT in combat to stay active and effect - avoiding unconsciousness (see General Injury: Lost Hit Points, p. B419) and Stunning and Knockdown, p. B420.

This GURPS 101 looks at these and gives some examples to make it clear how they affect you. They might change your mind about how much HT you need, as well!

Going Unconscious

When your HP reach 0 or below, you must make a HT roll at the start of your next turn or fall unconscious. At -1xHP, you roll at -1, at -2xHP it's -2, down to -4 at -4xHP. At -5xHP, you're dead, so you don't get to roll.

Note that this roll occurs on the turn of the injured person, not when they are injured. In other words, if A attacks C and puts him to 0 HP or below, and then B attacks C and puts him to -1xHP, on C's next turn C rolls once against HT-1 to stay conscious.

Going unconscious in a fight is mostly a clear-cut bad thing; you're out of the fight and at the mercy of the rest of the combatants. On the other hand, if you're very injured it can be better to pass out and give your foes a chance to move on and not keep beating on you. Foes with Bloodlust and animals seeking to devour you, though, taking away that small grace.

"You stunned him, just as he was wakin' up!"
- The Parrot Sketch, Monty Python's Flying Circus

Stunning and Knockdown

Unlike rolls to stay conscious, rolls against Stunning and Knockdown are rolled immediately, along with the injury inflicted.

This can get a little tricky; remember that stunning and knockdown is one roll. If you're stunned, you drop prone (and drop whatever you're holding), and you are stunned.

When to Roll:

Roll for:

- any major wound (injury in a single blow equal to more than HP/2); or
- any crippling injury (see (Effects of Crippling Injury, p. 421); or
- any injury to the head (skull, face, or eye) that causes a shock penalty; or
- any injury to the vitals that causes a shock penalty.

"Causes a shock penalty" effectively means (HP/10, round down) injury. It doesn't matter if you actually suffer shock penalties or not (thanks to High Pain Threshold), you must still roll if the damage is sufficient to have inflicted a penalty. High Pain Threshold does provide a +3 to the roll, and you don't take any shock penalty, but you can still be stunned or knocked out. And since it's possible that you could be knocked unconscious from this roll, Hard to Subdue provides a +1 per level to resist Stunning and Knockdown.*

Major wounds to the face or vitals are a -5, skull and eye major wounds are at -10. Also, it's important to remember at a failure by 5+ causes unconsciousness, not just stunning!

Those under the effects of the Berserk disadvantage are immune to stun; they still roll, however, with a +4, and only a failure by 5+ affects them at all, by knocking them out!* Those with Injury Tolerance that effectively removes some hit locations remove the special penalties for those locations - No Brain means never rolling at a -10 for a major wound to the skull, for example.

When you're stunned, you must Do Nothing and then roll at the end of your turn to recover (per Effects of Stun, p. B420). If you succeed, you are no longer stunned. If you fail, your turn ends and you must do the same on the turn following. (Special 3e alert - the roll used to be at the beginning of the turn, so if you recovered you could also act. This is not true in 4e!)

Example: Hjalmarr has HT 13, HP 20, and High Pain Threshold. His foe stabs him in the face and the vitals with a pair of attacks on a single turn. The stab to the face does 2 HP, just enough to inflict shock. Hjalmarr must immediately roll against HT 13 + 3 (High Pain Threshold) = 16 to stay conscious. He rolls a 12 and makes it. The stab to the vitals inflicts 12 injury, enough for a major wound. Hjalmarr must roll against HT 13 + 3 (High Pain Threshold) -5 (major wound to the vitals) = 11 to avoid stunning. He rolls a 15 - failure by 4. He's stunned and knocked down. Had he rolled a 16+, he'd have been knocked out! Instead he just drops prone, and his axe and shield** tumble from his hands. On his next turn, he must Do Nothing and will roll against his HT (with no special bonuses or penalties) at the end of the turn to recover from stun. He'll be unable to retaliate for at least one second!

So a major wound to the skull or eye is at -10. Even your HT 15 monster with High Pain Threshold rolls is rolling against an 8 to avoid stunning, and on a 13 or higher (failure by 5) you are knocked out. An average person (HT 10) would be rolling against a 0 - you're stunned on any roll and pass out on a 5+. With an injury multiplier of x4, this means even a low amount of penetrating damage to the skull or eye can incapacitate a foe!

Note that

The penalty for staying conscious at -1xHP (below) does not apply to Knockdown and Stunning; while that might make an interesting house rule it's not the RAW.*

* These were confirmed with Reverend Pee Kitty, Assistant GURPS Line Editor

** Clearly a buckler, since you only drop what you are holding.


  1. Good write up! The penalty when striking the Face makes it my go-to whenever it's time to break out the fisticuffs on the table (half penalty at reach C is a wonderful thing).

    1. "Half penalty at reach C is a wonderful thing..." Is that a house rule, or is that in a particular book?

    2. I believe that's only for Grappling a specific location (p. B370, repeated on B400), not for other strikes at range C.

    3. You are right, I have mis-remembered. Been a bit since I've looked at melee - I need to brush back up on that...

    4. Yes, it's half hit location penalty on grappling rolls.

  2. I have been guilty of exploiting the vitals side of this. Only -3 to hit, x3 damage, major wound is knockdown roll at -5 is pretty sweet.

    There is a reason various variants of "breastplate and helmet" (protect vitals and head) armor sets were so common.

    Tangent - in any game with reasonable guns and not-unreasonable armor/powers, this also tends to push ambushes from "you're in big trouble" to "you're doomed."

    Snipers scary.

    1. Indeed. It's why I'm making sure armor used in the game I'm writing for is up to the best spec it can be.

    2. It's a good "exploit." One thing people often overlook when thinking about knocking out high-HT foes is that the best way to do it is a sudden amount of damage to an important location. Not a bad tactic in general, but high HT means you can't just stick them a few times and wait for them to sag down to the floor later on.

  3. I have house ruled, Unconsciousness Rolls happen at the end of your turn. It think it makes more sense to roll after you exert yourself as opposed to before.

    1. I leave it as is, for pretty much the same reason - I think it makes sense if you just stop doing anything, you can stay awake. If you try to do something, you may pass out before you manage to do so.

      I could see it either way, but I like the drama of the decision - do I just sit here, or do I act? Plus, many of the PCs and NPCs in my games could access healing in that one second, so "roll when you are done" could easily become "don't bother rolling, you put yourself back out of consciousness roll territory." So you couldn't knock out the guy with Fast-Draw and a bunch of gems of healing, say, or a self-healing power or spell and a pretty good skill in it.

  4. If Hjellmar's shield is a buckler, then I agree, it's dropped when he's stunned. But if it's strapped onto his arm, I don't think so. It requires a Ready maneuver (and a DX roll if in close combat) to deliberately drop a strapped-on shield, so it shouldn't fall off by accident.

    1. Hjalmarr uses a large shield, not a buckler.

    2. That's correct, you drop anything you were holding. Technically, a shield is strapped to the arms, not held. The rule about getting rid of a shield in close combat isn't any more relevant than the rule about getting rid of shields while drowning, though.

      Our house rule is that you treat a shield on a stunning and knockdown roll like a shield on a critical failure to block - you lose your grip and need to re-ready before it does anything but give you a Defensive Bonus.

      Also, looking this up reminded me that you can't do a Slam with a buckler, since I wanted to double-check all of the shield references in Basic Set.

      This Hjalmarr isn't necessarily the same as your Hjalmarr, Vic. I just wanted you to feel alarmed reading the words "his foe stabs him in the face." And you can have a large-shield-sized buckler!

    3. Yes, when I read it, I thought, "New quirk: Dislikes being stabbed in the face." It's a corollary to "Dislikes: Not being at full HP."

  5. Disclaimer: I know nothing of internal SJ Games decisions or processes.

    I actually think the best thing SJ Games could do is start bringing out apps that do a lot of the GURPS rolls for you. Get someone else to do it with the license so they don't take the risk.

    1. As long as I still get to roll dice and have it tell me the results, spelled out, I'd use it.

      If it rolls for me, well, that sucks. I like the physical sensation and visual experience of rolling dice more than pressing a button that spits out a number.

    2. Easy to do (disclaimer I know nothing about doing anything). Basically just want something that keeps track of all modifiers, saves rolls (if you use them, otherwise you just type over them). I'm sure Excel experts could cobble up something there. I'd just like an app for my phone.

      I'd say something like $20 if it was pretty powerful would be about what I am willing to pay. Perhaps slightly less if character creation, NPC tracking and other apps came out as well and I decided to buy them.

      I could even imagine each player having the app on their phone. Or perhaps the free version upgradable to the full paid version. They just enter their character traits relevant to combat and track damage and get told when penalties and states apply.

  6. I think it's important to differentiate between being stunned (the "stun" result of some spells and other situations) and suffering from "knockdown and stunning" (major wounds and being hit in the head or vitals for enough damage to cause a shock penalty). I had trouble with this until it was pointed out to me that they are not the same.

    Being stunned does not mean you fall down and drop things; it means that you must Do Nothing and suffer a -4 to your active defenses and you cannot retreat. Suffering from Knockdown and Stunning means you fall prone, drop everything, and also suffer the effects of Stun.

    (Note, I am not correcting anything you wrote; just pointing out that newbies might miss the difference.)

    1. That's a very good point to bring up. Yeah, this is narrowly about "Stunning and Knockdown" and consciousness rolls from injury. You can be stunned without using the stunning and knockdown rules, and go unconscious from causes other than injury. I should put up a post about some of those other causes!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...