Thursday, May 2, 2019

GURPS 101: Monday morning quarterbacking the Session 115 fights

We had a few fights in Session 115 of Felltower.

Generally, I just adjudicate fights. You're doing well, you're struggling, whatever, I just say what happens and have the NPCs fight as hard as they can. Or as hard as is appropriate, more accurately. I do my level best to kill the PCs, maim the PCs, dissuade the PCs, or escape the PCs - depending on the nature of the foe. And if sensible (or morale-limited) foes falter, I have them do that, too.

I don't give advice to the players. I expect you to learn the rules, because doing so makes you a better player and also a better co-player to those who'll pick up the slack if you don't.

That said, I saw a lot of "opportunities" in the past session.

Several times, Dryst used Lightning to injure - but mostly to stun - some of the flame lords.

Those stunned flame lords had flanked Mild Bruce and Crogar. Both Mild Bruce and Crogar were in easy position to step back out of their surrounded positions, attain a better defensive position, and strike their Stunned foes.

Stunned is a condition in GURPS that gives -4 to Active Defenses and doesn't allow you to Retreat. In addition, recovery from Stunning is done at the end of a turn - so any foes attacked in this fashion couldn't strike back.

Instead, both Mild Bruce and Crogar attempted to attack fully aware, active combatants.

I understand the feeling - keep the active fighters engaged. Don't throw away a good position for a chance to finish a wounded foe. All too often we've seen someone break formation to "finish" a foe but cost a the party's integrity and position.

But in this case, it would have just been applying a combination of two factors:

- local superiority

- superior position.

By local superiority, I mean the concentration of force against a weakened foe. Dryst stuns it, another PCs steps in and finishes off the wounded foe. If not finishes off, instead of needing to use a Feint, or a steep Deceptive Attack, or both, the attacking PC would benefit from a -4 to defenses from the defender. Gang up on a weakened foe - don't stun a foe so you can swing away at a strong foe without risk, stun a foe so you can end that foe as a threat and then move on to the next one.

By superior position, I mean giving up a flank attack against yourself to foe the enemy to fight down a narrow channel towards you. This can be a deathtrap if your foe is capable of filling said channel with area attacks. If the foe is weakened to only using low-damage, high-risk attacks, then you want to force them to minimize their numbers while you maximize yours.

Instead, the PCs chose to just "divide and conquer" - you know, divide up, and hope to conquer. But "divide and conquer" as a strategy is to divide the foe and focus local superiority of numbers and position onto each one of them in turn, allowing a defeat in detail.

So I took the time after the session to speak to Mild Bruce's player (an adult, if a young one) and Crogar's dad's player (an adult, since Crogar's player is quite young). Mild Bruce will keep in mind what he missed through myopic focus on a particularly annoying foe. Crogar's player's dad is thinking of just gaming out some fights.

Learning game skill is helpful. Learing to see a tactical situation and discern how to take it apart to your advantage - that's gold in and out of game.


  1. I often hear this as "Guns off the field" though it applies to removing anything with offensive capability.

    1. That's a good way to think of it. Sometimes people get caught up in fighting "their" opponent, worrying about "kill stealing," and miss the main goal - to remove enemy combatants quickly, and if possible, efficiently.


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