Monday, June 2, 2014

Bruce Lee's One-Inch Punch and GURPS damage bonuses

This is a good reason why GURPS gives a bonus to damage to trained unarmed strikers:

The Science of the One-Inch Punch

""The first thing we found was that karate experts can punch much harder than normal, untrained people. Which isn’t exactly what you’d call Nobel Prize–worthy work," he says.

But Roberts also discovered that for the karate practitioners, muscle alone didn’t dictate strong punches. Rather, when he used motion-tracking cameras to track the puncher’s joints, he found that strikes that synchronize the many peak accelerations in one complex move—like Bruce Lee’s—were also the most powerful.

In other words, punching with just strength is inferior to punching with strength plus skill, and it's measurably different.

Technical Grappling extends this to grappling, where raw muscle provides the underlying basis for your grappling strength, but skill provides an addition to it. TG author Douglas Cole and I have chatted occasionally about extending that - and the concept of trained strength and damage bonuses - to everything, but there are complications. It would essentially make skill - already the win button in fights - into an even more powerful tool, and push striking damages up and up and up. You'd basically be giving skilled fighters a damage bonus (much like Weapon Master), and you'd need to re-jigger what Weapon Master does, what low skill does to damage, and what the expectations of armor DR are too, perhaps. It's an escalation, and ties skill to damage intimately in ways that would extend through the system. It's not a simple bolt-on if suddenly a ST 13 DX 12 Broadsword-15 fighter does 2d+4 instead of 2d with his sword, while a ST 13 DX 12 Two-Handed Sword-12 guy does 2d+2, and if maximizing one skill means much heavier or appropriate weapons are less useful than simply piling skill on to get more damage. I'd also be curious to see if there is any research suggesting this is true for weapon strikers - it probably is, but I don't know if it's been studied.

There are ways around it, but it's not so uncomplicated that I'm going to do it as a blog post. If we can work it out, perhaps it'll see life as an Alternate GURPS article someday.

But for now, you can bask in the feeling of "I guess GURPS was right about that" based on the article's findings about unarmed striking and skill.


  1. I touched on this in a previous blog post of my own - let me see if I can find it . . . yeah:

    Trained ST and Striking.

    I agree it's complicated. The easiest way I could think to do it would be to make an assumption about where in the DX progression you get to FULL applied ST. I chose DX+2 in the post, but one could easily (and you advocated) for DX. Either one would work. The DX+2 thing makes it so that you need to dump 8 points into skill just to break EVEN on ST for an average skill.

    As I noted in the post, and as you note above in your post . . .it's a rewrite, not an expansion. Maybe a fun one, but work nonetheless. We can add it to the list. :-)

  2. Hmm,

    Wouldn't a Melee Attack Option solve this more easily?
    Something like, I don't know..."Skilled Attack" or whatever. For each -4 to Effective Skill you take, you gain +1 Effective ST for the attack or something like that. Could limit to this to Techniques as an option too.

    So someone like Bruce Lee with say a Base Skill of 20 in "One Inch Punch", could do it at 14 instead, striking for an effective +2 ST if he succeeds?

    Numbers are probably off but you get the idea. This also probably already exist somewhere but I'm not up to date on all the books and whatnot :)

    1. Game-mechanically, this probably works out fairly well, with something like -3 to skill for a point of swing, or -5 per point of thrust providing the same basic 10 points per +1 to swing, 20 per +1 to thrust" of raw ST. Yes, you can make the comparison against the limited number of levels of Striking ST you can get. but I priced the relative skill levels in TG so that it was more efficient to buy up raw ST at 10/level than to get more ST bonuses from skill (3 skill levels per +1 to ST, and those +1s kicked in at a relative skill level such that you were spending 12 points in skill to get it).

      You could also just go -4 per +1, thrust or swing, because frankly in RAW GURPS, thrust can use the help.

      That's game mechanics. The issue that comes up is that while mechanically satisfying, once you learn the "proper" way to punch or swing a weapon, you do it ALL THE TIME. You don't choose between "I'll do a sloppy punch that's not damaging, or an accurate punch that's weak!" You have developed sport-specific strength with particular motions, and you are, basically, just stronger when doing those motions.

      Based on conversation with some long-time hunters who also run an archery shop, this would apply easily to drawing bows, where the sport-specific ST (which in GURPS is represented by +2 or +3 Arm ST or Lifting ST, and Strongbow) would be perhaps best represented by Trained ST that's uncapped, so that really high skill gives you really high bow draw ST, which would get you things like a ST 12 yeoman pulling a ST 17 bow by virtue of being DX 10 and Bow-20 (DX+10) for +5 to Trained ST with the bow.

    2. "That's game mechanics. The issue that comes up is that while mechanically satisfying, once you learn the "proper" way to punch or swing a weapon, you do it ALL THE TIME. You don't choose between "I'll do a sloppy punch that's not damaging, or an accurate punch that's weak!" You have developed sport-specific strength with particular motions, and you are, basically, just stronger when doing those motions."

      That's the problem right there. It's just a superior motion all the time, and all strikes are better. Better technique never offers a tradeoff between accuracy and damage, it's just an addition to both.

    3. I don't quite agree that you do it all the time. While professionals can wipe out amateurs without breaking a sweat, they do screw up quite often against other Professionals and that's how Skills work in GURPS as far as I know.

      Professional Boxers for example, at least the way I see it, do not land full strength, perfect motion, blows all the time. What they do is use tons of Combat Options and, sometimes because it's just luck (low roll), or sometimes because they got an opening (feint that worked) or even because their opponent just screwed up himself (high roll/ fumble) then their training for full speed, full motion, full strength comes into play and they'll try to land that one perfect punch they've training years for (technique).

      Same's true for tennis, football, ping pong and everything I think. Arm ST/Lifting ST/Leg ST/whatever ST seems the way to go, maybe with a new Limitation(only w/ Bow) seems sensible. This is true for most Sports, but as you said, mechanically, Techniques and just the Combat Option I mentioned above would do the trick just fine.

      All in all, Base Skill is already THE king in GURPS, adding free stuff on-top of it just because "skill" seems just insane to me :)

      But hey, to each his own and always interesting when you guys pull out crazy realistic formulas on your blogs!

    4. "Professional Boxers for example, at least the way I see it, do not land full strength, perfect motion, blows all the time. "

      No, they don't, but in game terms that's what a damage roll is for. And it's not like I claimed they never throw a bad punch. I'm saying, they don't throw hard but less accurate punches, and more accurate but less forceful punches, and trade skill for damage. Improved skill realistically effects the peaks and valleys of expected results.

      Basically, a bad shot from an expert boxer is better than a bad shot from an equally strong non-expert boxer, and a good shot from an expert boxer is better than the good shot from an equally strong non-expert boxer. It's effectively moving the range up. I think that is totally realistic. Expertise isn't just about raising the upside but also raising the minimum expected result, too, via better technique.

      If you disagree with that, then skill should never provide improved damage, because you should be trading skill for effect via combat options and hit location and it should never improve effective strength. But realistically, I think it should, and scientifically you can provide skill improves strength. Anecdotally, my gym strength has gone done a lot but I've been told my grappling and striking is much, much stronger. I can see the bench press, squat, deadlift, pullups, etc. decline but my training partners feel only my improved ability to leverage what I have.

      There are game design issues, but that's what I meant in my final comments - it's a major change to the game, not a quick bolt-on, if you do this to all attacks.

    5. Totally agree that skill improves your damage potential, mainly because the movements you do are way better when you trained for years, but also of course because you develop specific muscles for the given training.

      All I'm saying is that a non-expert will simply have lower skill, and therefore won't be able to do as many Combat Options, while an expert, will have much higher skill, and therefore will use Combat Options non stop (on every single attack really) and wipe the floor with the non-expert.

      Therefore, this issue can already be solved with a Combat Option converting Skill for Damage (and whatnot) somehow, just like you'd have an expert tennis man take a Combat Option to aim, put effect and power, in his shots all the time, because he can lower his skill via these way more than non experts.

      However, if you "automatically" include these things that should (and usually do) come from Combat Options as freebies just because you got the high enough Base Skill, then yea, as you said, you probably need to re-design the entire system.
      And this would affect just Combat skills, but all DX skills and, some could argue, all IQ skills as well.

      My point is that GURPS already allows to do it "all the time" (the issue Doulgas Cole had).
      How often do you have your guys in DF do "normal base skill attacks" with their 20+ base skill? Never I'd say. That's because they are experts and everything they do with these skills is better, because all they do is use Combat Options, all the time.
      This allows, against non experts, to use your most damaging attacks very easily and constantly, wiping the floor with them.
      But against skilled opponents, you don't and instead, mix and match tons of Combat Options until THAT one moment where you get an opening, then you go Telegraphic and lay it down.

      Seems already ultra realistic to me and pretty much like every single box or martial art match I've ever seen. :)

    6. I get that, but my argument is a bit more basic. If I'm an expert at karate and you aren't, and my average punch on a metered heavy bag is more forceful, that's an argument for more damage.

      You'd want to implement this kind of thing broadly by:

      - penalizing low skill and (especially) default use

      - either reducing damage or raising DR.

      But it's not a crazy idea to say better fighters hit harder, and science backs it. As I've said repeatedly, implementing it means changing the basic underlying assumption of GURPS damage calculation, which is that skill determines hits and defenses but strength determines damage. If skill is more closely tied to damage, then untrained damage must be lower to make the system remain balanced. It's not a small change.

    7. Right, and the questions then become at what point should GURPS assume you're trained enough to get your full measure of ST (DX, DX+1, DX+2, and DX+4 come to mind, with DX and DX+2 being the best candidates, I think), and how much you lose from being untrained (at default) through mildly trained. I obviously suggest a scale in the post I link to upthread (with the zero at DX+2), but there's a pretty good case for DX as well.

    8. Hmmm...

      That's what advantages are for really in my mind. Might seem unfair when you make a fresh character, but training for years means you pick these advantages as you train.

      Karatekas don't just "hit harder" when they use their special karate chops. Boxers don't suddenly become "stronger" only when they do their little boxing moves. It's broader then just application of Skill.

      Don't you think a master Karateka who's also an beginner Boxer would be able to apply more force when Boxing then someone who's just a beginner Boxer, even if they both have basic ST10?
      I "think" he would (could be wrong), and that'd come from specific Advantages he picked up while training as a Master Karateka, compared to the guy who's only a beginner Boxer and never did.

      Striking ST is exactly that. Then you can use the Accessibility limitation to reduce cost and how it's used (ie: only when punching, only when kicking, only when golfing, only when playing tennis, only when slamming, etc).

      Then you create a new Combat Option like the one I mentioned (trading Skill for Damage) and that covers everything you mentioned without redesigning the entire GURPS system. With that, an expert at karate will be able to do more forceful average punches on a heavy bag constantly.

      For example (and to conclude), using something like "Skilled!" as the Combat Option I mentioned for, let's say -2eS for +1 dmg and not going below 17es for max chance to hit (you don't "miss" the bag).
      I consider this as Automatic (+10) because it's non stressful and mundane for them. Also using Location (Face) because all blows must be centered properly.
      - ST10, Average Boxing(10): Telegraphic +4, Automatic +10, Location (Face) -5, Skilled! -2 = Dmg +1.
      - ST10, Expert Boxing(14): Telegraphic +4, Automatic +10, Location (Face) -5, Skilled! -6 = Dmg +3.
      The expert boxer will constantly hit harder on the bag than the average boxer and I'd add some Striking ST (only Punching) on top of that for the Expert, raising the difference even further.

    9. ”Don't you think a master Karateka who's also an beginner Boxer would be able to apply more force when Boxing then someone who's just a beginner Boxer, even if they both have basic ST10? ”

      Yes, and that's as simple as just applying the hardest damage bonus when they do strikes that overlap. It's not like if I went into a boxing match with Karate-15 and no Boxing skill I'd be unable to strike normally, I just couldn't use my Exotic Hand Strikes.

      I just think that if more skilled people can strike harder for a given strength, why de-couple the striking harder part from the skill?

      Changing how much skill is involved, changing the amount of damage, etc. makes sense to me. Making it into advantages and combat options seems a bit complicated to basically re-couple it to skill after the fact.

      If you really want to let skilled people hit harder, just let them use the damage modifiers from the Technique Design System on the fly. That'll toss Techniques out the window for the most part, but it'll work. They are balanced on the assumption there is a basic damage bonus for strikes from Boxing, Brawling, and Karate, though.

      But again, I don't think skilled people try harder stuff (and suffer a penalty) in order to hit harder, they just hit harder because part of skill is accuracy and part of it is the fundamental coordination necessary to put a strike on a target. Skilled folks aren't trading accuracy to hit harder, they are just doing so because their strikes are leveraging their strength better no matter what. So an approach that changes that flies in the face of what I know anecdotally and what studies have shown about force generation.

    10. You're right, and I can understand the issue you're having with this.

      Personally, I just consider anything above 16 Base as "past this level, you just never do normal stuff anymore", so Combat Options and whatnot are, to me, part of that automatically. Luckily for me, that suits the existing GURPS system just fine.

      That said, if you two push out that new system tweakage some day, that'd be a great read for sure :)

  3. GURPS melee combat would benefit strongly from a complete rewrite. ST to damage is an issue, Skill vs. damage is an issue, Weapon damage between melee and modern guns is an issue, DR is an issue, wounding is an issue, etc. Lots and lots of small things that people propose various small patches for, and those small patches usually fray at the edges where they meet the other issues.

    4e lost PD and there was much rejoicing, so small patches to specific areas are possible, but I think there is room for a major rejiggering of everything Maybe in 5e.

    1. I can agree to an extent, but the core of the system - thrust vs. swing, injury vs. penetration, etc. - is why I play the game. The modern guns, penetration, DR patches, wounding patches, etc. are all later additions. I'd rather not have the base, underlying system changed wholly to make it work "better" based on divers ideas on how to merge edge protection, penetration vs. 1" of RHA armor, shields as cover vs. shields as DB, etc. If it changes too much, it's not really GURPS anymore.

    2. I'd reserve judgement based on how well it was done. 3E DnD basically rewrote the whole damned system and was arguable not DnD anymore, but I liked it a lot more than earlier versions.

      It's all academic though, GURPS 5e is not on the radar, and as far as I know there's no credible authors working on homebrew high-level harmonization/redo.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...