"NEVER FIGHT UNARMED BY CHOICE."
- Ned Beaumont, Kill-As-Catch-Can
That quote sums up combat in GURPS. Weapons are almost always better than unarmed for serious fights. This is doubly true when you use GURPS's default "fairly realistic" or "versimilitudinous" approach. By default, getting swatted aside with a razor-sharp blade or punching sharped and weapon-turning metal hurts.
Naturally, that kind of thing sucks for a dungeon-bashing game, so I wrote up a nice post about how I avoid that (and so can you.)
Punching vs. guys wielding swords
Recently, though, the perennial discussion of "unarmed strikes are hosed in Dungeon Fantasy" came back up on the SJG forums.
So I wrote a couple of ways to deal with that, too.
Here is one, talking about the possibility of taking the brakes off of Striking ST, but limited to unarmed only.
Maximizing your unarmed strikes
I also wrote up a new Power-Up for martial artists - Fist of Power - to maximize their unarmed striking power.
Fist of Power
(Executive Summary - guys with tough hands can trade 8 points for even better punching damage, but with a slight tradeoff.)
These posts only touch lightly on the generic advice for striking unarmed effectively:
- Use Power Blow whenever you can. Breaking Blow, if the target is armored. You have Chi powers, use them.
- Use Extra Effort in Combat, if it's being used, to trade FP for extra damage.
- Strike often, because a baseline Martial Artist has Trained By A Master and a 14 or less to hit with two shots a turn right out of the gate. Throw a lot of punches!
- Juice up your strikes with better hand weaponry (bladed hands, brass knuckles, holding a shuriken) if you have that available.
Note that every single of one of these comes down to "change the rules to make it easier to punch effectively in combat." That's deliberate. The realism dials of GURPS are adjustable; no sense complaining about the dial settings instead of just changing them. Putting unarmed strikes into a realm where they can't be parried by swords (or it just doesn't injure you), where they do more damage, and where mystically you can hit harder without a weapon than with it is merely turning the dial from "pretty realistic" to "kung fu movie." That's where it should be if you want to punch owlbears, choke out trolls, and jump kick demons to death.