Monday, June 14, 2021

More notes from the Cold Fens

More notes from last game.

- I'll admit that despite all of my years as a GURPS GM, I'm still not sure exactly how to treat objects falling on people.

The rules for damage are clear enough. Hit location, very large objects falling on people, and defenses still throw me a bit.

Take the deadfalls. A tree falls on multiple PCs. Does the damage divide up? I know it's too heavy to Parry, but Crogar went for a Dodge and made it by the DB of his shield. So I ruled the shield took damage first. Had he blocked, would that have simply meant taking the hit but giving a very high chance of the shield being hit? It doesn't make sense that blocking with a shield makes any difference against a sufficiently large falling object. It shouldn't even necessarily break, but your arm might as you try to use it and a slab of leather, metal, and wood to stop something hitting you doing 10, 15, even 20d damage.

Blow-through is another. It seems like unless it clips you in passing, you should very likely take damage to multiple locations, especially if a limb gets destroyed.

I'm never exactly sure how to modify the hit location rolls, either. A standing person should have a very high chance of a skull hit from a big object falling from above.

So I'm not sure I handled the deadfalls correctly. They probably could have been - even should have - been more lethal. 15d shouldn't be "lose a limb, move on." That should be a potential effect but you shouldn't be more likely to get hit in the leg by a falling tree than in the skull . . . but I think the math says you are, as if you were a standing target attacked by a standing foe.

It's something I really feel like I don't have a great handle on.

- The PCs got a pair of boats. It was actually a pain to figure out what boat fit. I can't just eyeball one . . . the stat needs and costs and sizes are for very specific boats. They're often of historical interest rather than grab-and-go vehicles suited for adventurers.

Next they want to add waterproof tarps. I think this is just thin leather coverings (Low Tech Companion 1) but now I need to figure out the square footage needed for overhead coverage, and then price that out. GURPS doesn't always make things easy. It's something I don't love about the equipment lists.

- I ruled that Faith Healing can heal a crippled but intact limb, but a dismembered limb, even if technically still attached, is not intact. Sufficiently mangled is no different from cleanly cut off.

- It amuses me that the group has the Mythic Corselet - resizes to SM+1, potentially, with no weight gain - and the Universal Sword - which can be any sword - and they're both on Wyatt, who is SM +0 and only uses one specific sword size. Yet they have SM +1 guys who are eyeing heavier armor and people in need of either multiple swords or a rare sword type to just find (such as a greatsword or bastard sword.) It's not a criticism, really, and Wyatt uses them appropriately and well, it's just amusing to have the resources that can adapt nailed down to a specific person. Wyatt can't give that sword up, either.


  1. "That should be a potential effect but you shouldn't be more likely to get hit in the leg by a falling tree than in the skull . . . but I think the math says you are, as if you were a standing target attacked by a standing foe."

    Which is more important, 'the math' (IE "realism") or 'what makes a fun game'?

    In my opinion, a smashed arm or leg is more fun than a smashed skull.

    1. "Which is more important, 'the math' (IE "realism") or 'what makes a fun game'"

      A fun game. And a game in which a log falling on someone below hits their head more often is a fun game to me.

      If the PCs set this trap and I said the odds of hitting the skull with a falling log that is bigger than the target are no more or less than the odds of hitting the skull with a punch or a thrown knife . . . I suspect the players would have less fun, too.

      Verisimilitude is part of the fun for me.

  2. AFAIK GURPS treats damage from very large objects as large-area damage. So for moderate amounts of damage, it's not very dangerous because it won't cripple anything and it also won't put you into deep negatives. For stuff like 15d however, while it still won't cripple anything, have fun with the death checks, and if you're unlucky or squishy you'll get brought down to -5xHP and instakilled.

    If I weren't satisfied with such things not crippling limbs, hitting the skull etc, I'd roll on the random hit location table and depending how nasty I wanna be, just reroll any torso hits. Any damage which would normally get lost over the crippling threshold on a limb indicated by the roll, I'd have transfer to the rest of the body as large-area damage.

    You can take it further of course, modifying the random hit location table so that the skull for example has a greater chance of being rolled for attacks coming from above, or rolling multiple times. Depending on how good you are with such adjustments you could maybe even pull it on the fly without slowing down the game.

    I'd rule the same effect taking place for both a successful block and an active defense made by the DB - first the shield takes damage, and then you take any remaining damage. No, a shield won't magically stop all damage, but letting it stop whatever damage it can stop until breaking is a nice thing to do.

    Does the damage divide up between multiple characters? Haha, no. Nice try. Also, collision damage = mass * velocity, no matter how big the other object is, so hitting two characters instead of one shouldn't make a difference either.

    1. Sufficiently large attacks do count as Large-Area Injury - melee attacks from something 7 or more SM above yours, trampling attacks from something 3 or more SM above yours, designated large-area injury attacks like cones or explosions . . . but collisions don't automatically act as such that I can find in Basic Set or in Combat Write Large (Pyramid 3/77). So a SM+1 log does 15d but is not big enough to trigger those rules. If it's just "large-area" by sufficient damage, I can't find a rule that says so.

      Shields absorbing damage is fine, really, but they absorb *a lot* in 4e. A shield in 3rd edition make have DR 3 and take 7 HP in one blow before it broke; in 4th edition they have DR 7 and take 40 in one blow. In our previous session Crogar took the hit on his shield for 54 damage . . . and his shield broke and he took 7 HP of damage against his 7 DR and was fine. A large shield would have been damaged but functional! It just felt a little hokey. I don't mind being generous, but I figure letting a shirtless savage barbarian have DR 7 without any armor on plus around 30-35 HP was generous enough.

      I think I just need a more consistent set of rules for dealing with such situations in a way we'd like. Maybe I'll have to apply the falling damage hit location rules (p. B431), or roll for secondary locations if there is a spillover of damage thanks to crippling, or some such thing.

    2. Yeah, I thought that falls count as large-area damage, but apparently they don't. But in any case, large-area damage looks like a very sensible thing to use here.

      Other than that, B341 actually does something similar to what I suggested for falls. It does not cap injury to just the crippling threshold, and it also gives a chance for all limbs of the same type to be crippled if the one indicated by the random hit location roll ends up crippled.

      So there's already some good inspiration there.

  3. Hit Location and falling objects doesn't really bother me; if the characters are making Dodge rolls then they're moving, so the object could hit anywhere (and Exploits p.68 does say to use the Hit Location Table as normal). If the trap caught them completely by surprise I might just make skull hits automatic. Another possibility would be to have the deadfalls roll to hit using the hit location modifiers from Combat At Different Levels.

    1. I don't mind that they can hit anywhere. I'm not arguing that they can't. I'm saying the odds of an upper-body hit (especially a skull hit) should be higher than a face-on strike would give.

      Modifications to random location for height might be a good idea, but looking at B402-403 I don't see any modifications to random location, just to defense rolls.

  4. Kill a character with no chance of survival isn't usually fun for anyone, but having heard the numbers I have to agree with you that either you aren't applying some obscure rule interaction that makes falling object damage reasonable OR fall object damage in GURPS 4E is laughable and pretty much never a threat. Having a deadfall of that size (I'm picturing the traps Dutch set at the end of Predator in the jungle) fail to destroy a large shield or be completely ignored by the barbarian who sacreficed a small shield seems not fun to me, too.


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