Thursday, April 16, 2015

Little GURPS Weirdnesses

There are some weird little bits in GURPS. Or at least, little bits I've always found weird. Here are two, plus a bonus musing.

Long Weapons & Occupied Hexes. You can attack through a friendly-occupied hex with a long weapon with no penalty, as this is part of the training with a long weapon.

This makes perfect sense for polearms, such as spears, halberds, and glaives. It makes some sense for two-handed swords, especially used to thrust. It makes pretty close to no sense at all for long one-handed weapons, like rapiers and jianns. So I sigh every time someone says, "Have the fencer stand in the back rank, she can stab through the front rank with her rapier!" I just can't see how this works without a lot of coordination by the front rank fighter, and even then, it's not as seamless as a two-handed overhand reach and stab down. It would probably make a huge amount of sense to say this rule only affects pole weapons and naturally two-handed swords while held in two hands (so you can't stick a second hand on your rapier for a long-distance stab.)

Thrusting (sword). Ever since Man-to-Man, GURPS has made the assumption that larger one-handed swords and all two-handed swords are, by default, blunt. Sharp ones are the exception.

I don't think that's true. But even if it is true, I think it would be so much easier if swords were assumed to be top-end models. So you'd have:

Broadsword ($600, thr+2/imp)
Blunt Broadsword ($500, thr+1/cr)

and so on for the other swords. It would save a lot of new player confusing, spare the "is it a thrusting sword?" questions on loot, every single time looting of swords happens, and save a lot of typing.

Small (weapon). Actually, on a related subject of names, I've had players complain about how heavy axes and maces are. Yet the weapon tables contain smaller versions. No one takes them, basically ever, because they want the biggest one with the highest damage. And then moan the weight is too high, historically or otherwise.

Which is probably true. But even if only a few 4 pound war axes and 5 pound maces were out there, it's worth including them on the weapon charts as actual historically available weapons if there were at least a few. I wonder, though, what if we renamed them?

Instead of:

Hatchet (2#, sw/cut)
Small Axe (3#, sw+1/cut)
Axe (4#, sw+2/cut)

Small Mace (3#, sw+1/cr)
Mace (5#, sw+2/cr)

If we had:

Hatchet (2#, sw/cut)
Axe (3#, sw+1/cut)
Heavy Axe (4#, sw+2/cut)

Mace (3#, sw+1/cr)
Heavy Mace (5#, sw+2/cr)


I think you'd have less complaints. "Hey, the heavy axe is really heavy!" Yeah, go figure. Or "I'll take a mace." "Want a heavier one?" "Nah, not worth it." instead of "Small mace? May as well take the normal one." The bottom end ones would still be heavy-ish, although not crazy - 24-28 oz tomahawks and hatchets are available for sale online, and covers and belt loops and such and rounding to save sanity would take care of a lot of that gap up to a round 2 pounds. And if you really need a Small Mace, use the Knobbed Club stats. A really big one? Go get a Gada or Maul. (Incidentally, the maul is only 14#. Know what we called the 16# sledgehammer at the gym I used to train at? The little sledgehammer.) Basically reset what the normal expected weapons are. Similarly you could do this with knives (make the small knife into Knife), although I see a lot of small knives anyway.

I'm sure I'd still get complaining (and probably will in the Comments section) that the weights are still too high. But I think they're close enough, reasonable, and you would see a lot more people using the "small" weapons if they were the normal, expected version instead.

ST and exceeding ST. Back in 3e, GURPS used to let you ignore the re-readying requirement on unbalanced weapons if you had +5 ST over the ST stat (then called MinST) over the weapon. In 4e, it's +50% over. That's nice, in that it's normalizing to ST 10 and then smoothly moving them up as the ST score of the weapon goes up. You got the same, say, Knockback, which was normalized to ST-2 instead of per 8 points of basic damage (something we tossed out years back in favor of just using straight-up ST or HP, which better represents difficulty shifting things with force and is way easier to deal with.)

But it's odd. A ST 12 weapon in 3e would need ST 17 to use without re-readying. ST 12 could lift 20% more than a ST 10 person. ST 17 could lift 70% more. But in 4e, a ST 12 person can lift almost 50% more than a ST 10 person, and ST 17 can lift almost 3x as much (and double that of the ST 12 person.) So in other words, in terms of raw lifting ability, raw ability to move weight around, 4e requires a lot more. I've wondered for a while if shifting that down (to 30% over, or merely +3 over ST in the interest of simplicity) would be better. It would bring the actual physical muscular strength needed to better control the weapon down to more reasonable levels. It wouldn't always work out to be exactly the same amount of lifting capacity change if you went with the plus, but it would be easier.

Those are just some little oddities that I see. Any that you folks want to comment on?


  1. Never mind using whips, chain whips, or kusari through occupied hexes... Technically by RAW, as long as no one is standing next to you, you can reach out through two friends to smack a bad guy 4 hexes away.

    There IS an overhead stab for Saber/Rapier fencing that doesnt involve a lunge, and so could go over or around a friend. Might count as an All Out Attack (Long) though, leaves you pretty open without an off-hand something to block/parry with.

    1. It's not that I think you can't do it, but that you can't do it without a penalty. The explanation is even more odd - "In Rapier class, we learned how to stab over the front ranks of our fellow fencers!"

      Allowing it penalized, like any other hostile occupied hex, would be fine. Allowing an overhead downward strike (which exists in a lot of one-handed styles) as an AOA (Long) is problematic because AOA (Long) doesn't allow you to attack through a crouching or standing person. Might just be a case of applying the -4 for an occupied hex, and let you do AOA (Determined) to offset it if you wish.

      This is one I'd happily change if my players would let me. It's easy enough - no weapon table editing to do! Otherwise, I may just need to start deploying ranked fencers myself. ;)

    2. I don't know, as the only one running a fencing character (I think?) I'm not sure that Galoob is threatening enough to merit such a change. We apparently already have enough trouble not getting murdered in the first place!

      As someone without a vested interested in historical weapon weights (and a big dnd background where weapons weight a ton) I think the weapon stuff makes a lot of sense.

    3. I wouldn't change it to nerf uber-Galoob, I'd change it because I don't think it makes any sense. But, like I said, I'd expect push back if I did from people who think fencers need to be able to stab from the second rank purely to make them more survivable against missile weapons and heavy-weapon fighters. It's just hard to explain why a long rapier is a good formation weapon, when realistically it's long two-handed pole weapons that are actually good formation weapons.

    4. Yeah, that makes sense. Well if it helps, upon Galoob's inevitable death I think I'll probably do something two-handedy, especially since the ONE guy has a necromancer already and the OTHER guy has throwing axes. Basically the posts that you and Douglas write get me inspired with funky / valid combat options.

      Is it pessimistic to constantly refer to Galoob's untimely demise? I feel like it's either inevitable or he'll survive everyone.

    5. It's actually sort of optimistic, since he seems like he's never really in any immediate danger.

  2. Regarding thrusting swords: "Crush" damage type doesn't mean "bunt". It means "does not ordinarily receive a damage bonus", much the same way "Swing" and "thrust" just mean "fast damage progression" and "slow damage progression".

    Consider these swords:

    The top and bottom ones would likely have the "thr+x cr" damage type. They're not blunt or dull or anything like that, so much as they aren't acutely tapered - and quite probably more flexible than a "dedicated" thruster. The idea is they wouldn't, on a given thrust, injure as deeply as those with the "imp" damage type.


    1. I'll quote Man-to-Man here, which is where this originated:

      "Standard broadsword is blunt."

      Thrusting broadsword says:

      "More expensive because of point."

      And it hasn't changed at all since then. So explaining it's because it's a shallow impale is really retconning the explanation. Saying that a sword is pointed, but not so acutely tapered that it warrants impaling means you need to look at every pointed weapon and do the same - you should have crushing spears, crushing polearm tips, crushing shortswords, etc. Those swords have points, and I'd bet anything those points help the blade slide into someone. I'd bet anything they shouldn't warrant 2x damage vs. creatures with a vulnerability to crushing attacks, either.

      So I find that explanation pretty weak, honestly, even if I accept that blunt claws leave extremely shallow wounds, or that adding short stubby spikes to a crushing weapon is best represented by a +1 to damage and not a change to impaling. For a sword with a point like those in the picture? No way.

    2. Well, we aren't really playing Man to Man now, so while the system has its roots there, it doesn't necessarily mean it holds today. I should have put more emphasis on the flex than the gradual (spatulate) points, though, which would run counter to the spears/polearms counterpoint.

      We may also have ambiguity as to what "blunt" means. "Blunt" as in generally rounded end (, or one that has no bevel to an edge at all?

      Otherwise, I'm pretty sure what I said is going rate on the forums these days. Of course, that doesn't mean too much without a Krommquote. It remains how I rationalize it, anyways, and serves as a mechanical reinforcement to a sword that's better with its edge than its tip.

      For creatures with problems against crushing damage - you got me there.

    3. We aren't playing Man-to-Man, it's true, but the weapon tables are largely unchanged from there. The weapon types, naming decisions, and damage type decisions made there are also almost entirely unchanged.

      And honestly, I don't pay much attention to the forums. I can say that if you want a sword that's better with its edge than its tip, make the edge better or make the tip worse. You don't need to make it crushing instead of impaling unless it's useful as a crushing weapon in the game. Just tack on some special effects to that weapon like the estoc has in Low-Tech (p. 56).

    4. Would having the "blunt" broadsword do piercing instead sidestep the problems of crushing, or make more problems?

  3. I've done the middle two (thrusting and small) when transcribing the weapon tables for my current campaign - even making the dueling halberd a halberd and the basic set version a heavy halberd, and such. So far it's working.

    Players don't like seeing "junior" next to their weapon choice.

    1. Nice. Maybe I should do that in the future after all!

    2. Don't have my book handy. Is that in Basic set or something else? Low-tech, maybe? Martial Arts?

    3. Dueling halberds, do you mean? GURPS Martial Arts. It's the only kind you've seen in play.


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