Riffing off some recent discussion of death checks in GURPS and how to cut someone's head off with a cutting weapon, I started to think that it would be amusing to map out the kind of damage you need to kill a character.
What's it take to kill someone in GURPS?
Basically, how much raw damage do you need to get a kill?
The Victim: Since all the numbers are linear, I'll just go with a mathematically easy HP 10. No Injury Tolerance, Supernatural Durability, or Unkillable. The victim suffers Death checks at -10 HP, and dies automatically at -50 HP.
I'm also largely disregarding armor, except for the native DR that comes with a very few locations protected by bone. It's worth noting that the locations most easy to kill someone with one shot are also the easiest to armor - Skull, especially, where it's not uncommon to wear 2-3 layers in my games (such as a greathelm or pot helm over a mail coif - if not greathelm over pot helm over coif.)
Here are some prime targets for forcing a kill with a single shot. Limbs and extremities can't do it, because damage is limited to below HP . . . if you want to kill someone with a limb or extremity shot you need to use the bleeding rules. It won't be quick.
Note on Terms: Damage is raw, base damage needed; injury inflicted isn't listed. Damage types are abbreviated cr, cu, imp, pi-, pi, p+, p++ below.
Torso: x1 crushing, x1.5 cutting, x2 impaling, x0.5 to x2 for piercing. Takes 20cr/14 cu/10 imp/40 pi-/20 pi/14 pi+/10 pi++ to force a death check. 60cr/40cu/30imp/120pi-/60pi/40pi+/30pi++ to kill automatically.
Good, solid choice for cutting, impaling, and the larger two piercing attacks. Easy to hit, too.
Vitals: x3 impaling, x3 any piercing, others unaffected or can't target them. Takes 7 damage to force a death check, 20 to kill automatically.
Great choice for either!
Skull: x4 for anything, native DR 2. Takes 7 damage to force a death check (7-2=5, x4), 17 damage to kill automatically.
Great choice for high damage attacks of any kind!
Eye: As skull, but it bypasses the skull DR (and it's very hard to armor the eyes in low-tech environment). Only 5 damage to force a death check, and 15 to kill automatically.
If you can hit them (-9), target them, and as a bonus you'll usually blind the guy in one eye and force some difficult knockdown rolls.
Neck: x1.5 for crushing, x2 for cutting, others same as torso. 14cr/10cu to force a death check, 40cr/30cu to kill automatically.
It's not terribly hard to hit, and it's easy to force death checks with high-damage cutting attacks (aka, most strong warrior's cutting attacks). It's easy to armor, but it's a good happy medium between the torso (easy to hit, easy to armor, needs a lot of damage to kill) and the skull (hard to hit, easy to armor, low damage to kill). It's a great choice if you can't penetrate the nearly-ridiculous skull armor my players put on their character's skulls.
How about some of the GURPS Martial Arts hit locations? Well, most of them are limb or extremity related (joints, nose, ears) or don't speed death (spine), but one does . . .
Veins and Arteries: All the relevant injury multipliers are upped by 0.5, pushing the required damage for a limb or neck down. You can even kill with a limb shot, since you don't get a messy cripple but a messier severed vein/artery. For simplicity, let's say it's just neck we're worried about. Takes 8cu/8imp/20pi-/14pi/10pi+/8pi++ to force a death check, 24cu/24imp/60pi-/40pi/30pi+/24pi++ to kill automatically. Not bad.
Also, at the GM's option Mortal Wounds doesn't apply . . . making it much easier to cause a failure on the death check!
What's the takeaway?
It depends on your weapon, and your opponent's armor, but it's not terribly had to force a death check in GURPS. It's harder but not unreasonably so (thanks to high damage rolls and the occasional 2x or 3x damage critical hit) for even a relatively normal strength guy to cause automatic death to an opponent.
For a cutting weapon, you only need 7 damage to penetrate an unarmored skull and force a death check, and only 10 to the neck or 14 to the torso. Skull is a good option if you can hit it, neck is very solid.
For a crushing weapon, think skull or neck if you can hit them - you only need 17 damage to kill a normal, unarmored guy outright automatically. A ST 14 guy with a mace and All-Out Attack (Strong) can do that with maximum damage, and even minimum damage will force a death check!
For impaling, vitals or eyes. Damage needed is really low for eyes, and not high for vitals.
For piercing, it's vitals or eyes, especially if you're using armor-piercing weaponry . . . slam through that DR and do x3 or x4.
So yeah, it doesn't take much to push someone to death checks in GURPS. Good think for the players it's not so easy to fail the checks.
My DF Game
The characters in my DF game have different approaches.
-Vryce generally goes for the torso, and aims for multiple hits. It's easy to hit, allowing him to leverage his very high skill and damage into a strong Deceptive Attack with no "wasted" damage.
- Honus tends to go for the body, to ensure a hit and no wasted damage. Chuck does the same.
- Raggi has a Trademark Move aimed at the Neck, and cares only about forcing death checks. He's also a user of the Great Cleave (DF11) and needs to ensure knockdown when aiming for a multi-foe hit, and Neck is a good way to do that with a cutting weapon thanks to the x2.
- Borriz smashes everything twice in the skull, turning his 2d+8 or +9 into a x4 multiplier and a fair amount of automatic kills.
- Galen shoots everything in the vitals, if they have them, and every once in a while in the eye if they don't.