Thursday, January 14, 2021

Bad Footing bonus?

One of my pet peeves is players forgetting their penalties. They may know them but not remember to apply them. They're at -2 for bad footing, but forget to apply it. They suffer a -3 for vision penalties, but figure out 5-6 turns later they critically hit something based on full skull, not modified. Ugh. It drives me nuts.

As the GM, it's much easier for me to remember penalties foes inflict, or flat bonuses that figure into NPC's "to hit rolls."

What might work, more or less, is this:

- Apply penalties that hurt PCs but not NPCs as a bonus to NPCs. Instead of -2 for the PCs to hit, it's a +1 for NPCs to defend against attackers on Bad Footing. Instead of a -1 to defend, it's a +2 to hit (which can convert back to Deceptive Attack -1, which is something players do not forget to factor in.)

- If the penalty applies both ways, either ignore it (simple) or apply the bonus and penalty to the NPCs. Bad Footing at -2/+1 would be +1 to defend, but -2 to hit for the NPCs. Broadsword-16 would be Parry 13, but 14 or less to hit. Weird, but it moves the penalty to the NPC only.

It's not an entirely fair swap. +1 to defend is nice, but -2 to the attacker's "to hit" can mean a foe not being able to target a given location and still max out skill. It can mean a +1 to defend against a Move and Attack (skill cap 9) or Wild Swing (also skill cap 9), which might otherwise absorb the penalty for a sufficiently high-skill attacker.

It's a tempting to try this out, as it moves to onus from the players ("Oh yeah, it was bad footing . . . ) to the GM (who can pencil in a new score and just use that, instead.)

Any holes in this I'm not seeing?

I don't believe it's optimal, but it could be a solution to the issue of forgotten penalties.


  1. well... it is putting more of the bookkeeping onto the GM, which for combat as complex as GURPS can be, I wouldn't want to be doing that.

    would it be easier to have tokens that get set down next to a character to indicate what modifiers they should have?

    1. The thing is, I don't forget penalties. I forget what's going on with the PCs. So do many of the players. And it's not bookkeeping, really, it's a change to skills and defenses for the NPCs. That's trivial, honestly.

      Tokens next to the PCs wouldn't work, because with a confused melee with 12-15 PC-side combatants, using the weird tokens on Roll20 . . . it's hard to keep track. It won't actually change the rolls for the players, and just add visual clutter to an already-cluttered experience.

    2. Yeah, tracking penalties is easier than monitoring players' use of penalties. The other option being to just let it slide.

    3. Letting it slide is no fun. For one, because the penalties reflect a variety of challenge (fighting on ice, fighting in the dark, fighting invisible foes, etc.)

      Two, if the PCs don't operate with penalties, the skill levels in games like DF Felltower are too high. Those skill levels should allow great feats or overcoming great obstacles . . . it's a problem if it's just great feats always ("I stab the eyes at a net 16, Deceptive Attack -5, always"), with no obstacles (". . . except in the dark, on bad footing, while kneeling.")


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