Thursday, August 7, 2014

GURPS Master Class: Revising Evaluate

Evaluate is basically unused in my games.

The benefit is a bit small (+1 per turn, max +3, one turn per plus), ends early, and generally is superseded by other, more useful options. Low skill? Turn to Telegraphic Attack, Committed Attack, or even All-Out Attack. High skill? +1 to +3 just isn't worth it. Even skill with your foe? Probably better to bet on a critical or a Feint* than to Evaluate.

I've written about ways to upgrade Evaluate before, but since I never seen these used in play I didn't keep track of where I wrote them. So I gave it some thought this week once Doug assigned it out as homework.

I see a complex way and a simple way to upgun Evaluate.

Complex Way:

Evaluate is a Per-based Feint. It's useable against any foe you can see, subject to range penalties. The foe resists with either DX-based or IQ-based skill, to conceal (or fail to create) any openings. You can hold your Evaluate bonus as long as you continue to Evaluate your foe. In addition, you get the usual benefits of Evaluate (+1 to +3). You may choose to keep the results of your Per-based Feint or you can try again and take the new results. The bonuses for the Feint and the Evaluation do not stack; take the higher bonus.

Simple Way:

Evaluate works as written in Basic Set and Martial Arts, but the bonus is +3 for one turn. Additional turns of Evaluate do nothing exceed hold the results.

(Optionally, make it +2 per turn for up to 3 turns, for a possible +6! In that case, only apply half the bonus vs. Feints and Deceptive Attacks. Cancelling -3 is good enough for those.)

I'd go with the simple way. Just hand out a +3 and it's suddenly worth it for many fighters, especially since it can stack with All-Out Attack (Determined) for a +7 to hit without giving a defense bonus to the target ala Telegraphic Attack (Martial Arts, p. 1113). At the same time, it's not quite as good (but much less limited) than Telegraphic Attack. It's better for slightly more defensive minded folks - and cancelling 3 points of Deceptive Attack means you can hold your own, potentially, against a fighter 6 points more skillful than yourself!

In any case, it's important to apply all of the benefits of Evaluate fully - the cancelling of defensive penalties (per Martial Arts, p. 100), bonuses to non-combat skills, and so on. If you don't do that, even the changed versions won't help much.

* Yes, I know that mathematically Feinting a person of the same skill works out to a net zero. But Rock Paper Scissors works out to a net even win-loss over the long run, but it doesn't mean people don't win on some turns. Feint vs. a similar skill foe is betting an attack chance that you'll roll better than your opponent this turn and then mess him up on the next turn. That's, in my experience, a very good choice.


  1. I like the idea of converting Evaluate to Feint and Deceptive attacks. Maybe it hurts less for a player if they make it the standard operating practice to load with Evaluate first then do something on the next turn and call it a 2-turn maneuver. No need to make a rule for this: kindof like people don't worry too much about readying an arrow before shooting a bow (I don't know how I feel about Fast-Draw other than its speeds the game up).

    1. No one in my games goes without Fast-Draw - that's a significant improvement in your rate of fire. My players really do worry deeply about readying arrows before loading bows, because shooting 1 second faster can mean a fight win instead of a fight loss.

  2. You know I am readying all the Evaluate posts, what am mostly seeing are white room reasoning. Two fighters in a white room go at each other sort of thing.

    What if the circumstances are such that there is a consequence to missing. That lowering one's defense is not a good idea. That it makes sense to forego up to three blows to make sure of one blow.

    When my group started with 4e we used evaluate generate a bonus. It didn't happen all the time but it was useful in various circumstance. Then we learned about telepathic attack. So that dropped the use of evaluate a lot. For my group evaluate became a way to negate situation negative modifiers. Something hindered you so you took some extra time before taking a swing.

    1. I don't think the "white room" reasoning comment is entirely fair. While the initial comment might have been a thought experiment from Jason Packer, many of the posts have been from experienced GMs that have observed, as Peter notes, that Evaluate is basically never used in his real games, as there's nearly always a better option.

    2. I don't think it's fair at all, actually. My comments are based on this experience:

      - PCs sometimes Aim, because the Acc bonus is worth it.
      - PCs never Evaluate, because +1/turn is not worth it at all.

      So it's not like I'm looking at Evaluate based on some featureless plain situation, but on general melees and duels using the 4e combat rules since before 4e was released - since I had access to the playtest docs once I was contracted for Martial Arts. In that time, Evaluate has been used only a tiny handful of times, and once used, not generally used by that player again.

      I think my two suggestions might change that - I'll propose the flat +3 or +2 per turn to max +6 - to my players to try them out. They need playtest, for sure, but they're a product of 11+ years of 4e combat seeing almost no Evaluate and no repeat customers.

  3. I really like the +2 for up to three turns idea. Is there a reason not to apply the same bonus to Aim (I'm guessing that ACC is the reason)?

    1. You guess right - the lack of an Acc stat means there is no immediate bonus. A crossbowman might get upwards of a +7 with enough Aim, and gets +4 for one turn. A swordsman gets +1, and generally has a lot less to worry about from missing.

    2. I wonder if there would be a (simple) way to create an Acc stat for melee. Like maybe weapons that use an Easy skill have Acc 1, Average skill Acc 2, Hard or Very Hard Acc 3 (or whatever).

    3. I figured someone would ask. It'll be hard - is a rapier more accurate than a smallsword? Than a longsword? Than a 9mm pistol? It's not like we have range stats to draw from, and the weapons are extremely broad categories compared to ranged weapons. You could base it off bulk, but does weight really affect your ability to spot incoming attacks or hit more accurately.

    4. Yeah, that's why I was suggesting that it might be based on "intensity of training" (or whatever you want to call it) as represented by the difficulty of the skill in question. I figure that someone who is spending 2 to 8 times as much effort to learn the basics is also going to pick up fundamentals like recognizing openings at an increased rate.


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