Wednesday, December 30, 2020

GURPS Combat Skill/Defense Caps - Part III - Addendum

I almost forgot to specific note on Part III - maximum defense.

Maximum defense?

Even with a skill cap and a DB cap, it's possible to push defenses so high only a critical matters.

The maximum defense you can get with Skill 25 is Parry 15, +1 for CR, +3 for Enhanced Defenses, and +6 for DB (before Retreat and conditional modifiers.) That's a 25 to hit, and a 25 to defend. Skill 30 allows for a 28.

If the maximun penalty you can inflict without special techniques is -8 (Feint, VDA), that reduces the 25 to a 17, and a 30 to a 22.

Therefore it might be useful to have, instead of a DB maximum, a defense maximum. Set to, say, 20, no points in excess of 20 count, no matter the source. Cap at 20 before penalties. So Skill 25 guy above actually has a 25, maxes at 20, which is a 18 vs. a DA, 16 vs. a VDA, 14 and 12 if Feint is added in. Retreat still matters against very skilled foes, and you are discouraged from wasting points on advantages and skill points that simply cannot usefully add to your defenses.

This kind of rule puts a bounded limit on overall defense keeps everyone potentially vulnerable, and means multiple defenses always have some cost. It also nicely allows for PCs who aren't very skilled to pile up DB to keep themselves alive by alternate means. It also gets rid of the issue of people exceeding the maximum skill through Grace spells or potions or Heroic Feats to raise defenses - it simply doesn't matter.

I'd put this limit in before Feverish Defense, if you're using Extra Effort in Combat.


  1. "It also nicely allows for PCs who aren't very skilled to pile up DB to keep themselves alive by alternate means." This is the exact opposite of what I want . . . . The situation where Molasses Mo can benefit from something where Jazz Jackrabbit finds it useless is one of the aspects of certain RPGs I hate so much and the avoidance of it is one of it in GURPS is something I like so much.

    1. Makes sense. But I'm trying to avoid a situation where the only way to survive is by being Jazz Jackrabbit.

      Also, with the close-ended randomization scheme that is 3d6, eventually you reach a point where something is useless to one character but still makes a large mathematical odds difference to another. So I don't feel any pangs of game design guilt of making something that benefits a character lower down the bell curve more than it benefits someone already exceeding the top end of that bell curve. It seems to me that is happening already.

    2. The most egregious example to me is some editions of D&D limiting the benefit of Dex when wearing armor. If being Dextrous is good, and wearing armor is good, then surely the Dextrous armored guy should be better than Dextrous naked guy or non Dextrous armorered guy.

      Maybe this isn't quite the same thing, but boy did it set off all the alarm sirens of RPG design hate

    3. To me this isn't the same thing at all. It's more like saying that a +1 matters more for a guy with a base 10 roll than for a base 20 roll. The "dextrous" guy already is butting against a die-roll maximum. To say that "dextrous" guy can't exceed that die-roll maximum by more than a certain amount doesn't seem to be unfair. After all, a flat maximum affects everyone equally. Complaining that JJ gets 18 out of, say, 24 from skill and 6 from DB and MM gets 12 out 24 from skill and 12 from DB and that's unfair seems mathematically bizarre. And from a game design perspective, like you're saying that there is really only one allowable route to the maximum - raw high skill.

    4. This really makes me think what I might consider doing is something like say the Acc cap on scopes as a Cap on DB and other external Defense bonuses. Say said bonus cannot exceed your base defense. So A speed 6 guy with light encumbrance and no combat reflexes is looking at dodge 8. So he can't get more than a 16 even if he casts Shield, Haste and picks up a Cloak etc

      That somewhat curtails Magery 6 Haste + Shield + DX potion plus etc


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