" In the confusion of combat GURPS is already generous about allowing free choosing of targets that should be difficult to even line up on a still target..." This brings up a question I've had for a little while: if DnD combat rounds are too long, are GURPS combat rounds too quick? How does the GURPS combat system rate, verisimilitude-wise, in the opinions of those who have martial arts training (armed and/or unarmed)? Your opinion, Peter?
I said I needed a post to answer. Here is that post.
This post will mostly be about GURPS.
Let's first just get this out of the way - 1 minute combat rounds in AD&D are long . . . long enough to not allow for some of the true speed of combat in real life. A lot can happen in a handful of seconds, nevermind sixty of them. But the one second turns in GURPS can feel a bit short.
GURPS isn't the only game that realized that one-second combat turns make sense, especially with firearms. TSR's Gangbusters used one-second combat turns. Oddly, you could only melee once every three turns (punch on turn 1, can't do so again until turn 4), but you could shoot every second. Fair enough - most guns either have a totally unrealistic ROF on a multi-second turn (six shot revolvers emptying in 2/5s of a five-second turn, or getting limited to 3 shots in five seconds), or put out so much lead that you can't easily resolve it (a SAW putting out 60 rounds or limited to just 12) or some abstracting mix.
That said, TSR's Top Secret had five-second combat turns, divided up into 5 1-second phases. Guns had some odd ROFs because of that - you can only fire one pistol shot per second, for example, or an Uzi 4 shots per second, well below a realistic actual max ROF - but it was workable enough in actual play. Still, it took abstraction and tradeoffs. You only managed a small number of offensive and defenses melee actions, as well, if you engaged in hand-to-hand combat, over those five seconds. For melee combat especially it seemed fine until I actually started to really practice combative martial arts.
An amazing amount of violence can happen in a few seconds. And a whole fight can be over in a fraction of a second.
Check this exchange out:
Click here if the embedding doesn't display well for you.
(Discussed further in my post Longsword Sport)
So resolving GURPS fights at the one-second scale make sense.
But at the same time, sometimes it seems too short.
I've occasionally noodled about the idea of just increasing GURPS combat turns to 3-5 seconds; perhaps a slight increase in actions allowed but more time to do them. This would potentially allow for more actions than just swinging and casting as fast as possible - and battles that last more than 10-12 seconds for "long" fight. That's not a crazy length for a brawl, but for large battles, it's oddly short. Too much happens in too short of a time, with no one hesitating to act because, thanks to the minutes each second takes to resolve, they have a near-perfect knowledge of the battlefield and the actions of everyone around them. Player decisions mitigate against this, but it's quite possible to have everyone on a single side act in perfect harmony with each other's actions. That's unrealistic, and how unrealistic it seems and feels is exacerbated (I'd say multiplied) by the speed at which it happens.
That's where the issue lies, and it's very difficult for a game to do both well. One the one hand, a one-second time scale allows for realistic rates of fire, the flash of an exchange that leaves one combatant dead and the other living, and allows for rains of punches like you see finishing a TKO in an MMA fight or a YouTube video of some poor schlep starting a fight with a boxer. On the other hand, with a confused melee being resolved at a one-second scale you don't get the much more realistic overall length where a lot of time is spent in the OOD part of the OODA loop - Observing, Orienting, Deciding, and Acting. Instead that happens in the meta, and everyone acts tightly within an identical loop. No confusion, no mistake, and no error of observation or orientation, only of decision. Making turns longer wouldn't change that in the meta-sense, but it would change it in the overall time it takes. You'd gain back some overall time cost to battles, and gain the ability for reinforcements to realistically arrive (nonsense on a one-second scale, unless the reinforcements are only yards away), non-combat actions to occur ("Hold them off while I pick this lock!" - not likely when it'll take one minute, just do it after), and combat to feel realistically long. Yet to do so, as I noted, costs in the observed reality of how fast you can dump an enormous amount of violence onto a foe.
So GURPS has verisimilitude on the micro-scale of actions, but less so on the macro-scale of overall time for a battle to occur.