Thursday, June 24, 2021

Weapon Master creates have/have nots

I love my GURPS Dungeon Fantasy campaign. It's been one of the longer campaigns I've run. Still, there are things we'd do differently, or we wouldn't port over to another campaign.

Weapon Master

Weapon Master creates have/have nots.

One of my players - the one who runs Gerry and used to run Vryce - pointed this out. He's not the first to do so. But it's significant that it's so clear to everyone involved that this one advantage causes issues. I know some of my players would argue for a "lighter" version, or a way to make, you know, skilled guys viable via some version of this. But it's a fact that GURPS has always favored skill over strength (which is probably realistic), and giving something that rewards skill with the equivalent of both more skill and more strength means it's a mission-critical ability if you need both.

If you have it:

- you attack more frequently (-3/-3 for Rapid Strike, not -6/-6)
- your attacks are more damaging (+1 or +2 per die)
- your defenses are more effective (multiple defense penalties are halved)
- any benefits you have for combat skills or inflicting damage get a stacking benefit and increase in value.

If you don't:

- you get none of the above.

This isn't really news if you've played DF for a while.

I think if I ran another game, I probably wouldn't allow Weapon Master, Heroic Archer, and possibly Trained By A Master. The first for sure, the second just as likely, and the third . . . maybe. It's so much more limited in scope than Weapon Master, even though it affects more skills. Heroic Archer similarly creates a split - effective in ranged combat vs. nearly hopeless in ranged combat. You don't just become a better archer, capable of amazing shots . . . you become a machine gun. This is absolutely in-genre and necessary in a game with Weapon Master in common use, but if Weapon Master goes, so should it.


  1. Pretty much I've considered Weapon Master the 'I am a slugger' advantage since I started playing in 3e

  2. Most of the problem with Weapon Master is that One Weapon is -60% but that one weapon will have an 85%+ usage rate. Make the players buy the whole thing.

    1. For me, I think requiring the full Weapon Master will just create a smaller pool of "haves" rather than solve the issues above. I'm not saying it wouldn't help in a lot of cases, but equally once you have it, you reap enough benefits from those 45 points that ones who spent their 45 points other ways are just significantly less-relevant fighters.

    2. Really? You don't think an 11 higher skill isn't significant?

      Don't get me wrong, the Damage bonus alone is almost worth 40 points by itself, and it's that that I consider to be the real issue. Remove the damage bonus and the Advantage becomes less a "must have" and more a "it's nice to have, but I can make do without it".

    3. That's enough points to buy weapon +5 [20] + Striking ST 5 [25] or increase Frostbite up to 25. There's not a huge difference between those and WM.

      Making TBaM a prerequisite and then charging [30] for just the damage bonus could be another option.

    4. "Really? You don't think an 11 higher skill isn't significant?"

      It's huge. But you're assuming the choice is a flat 44 points in skill or 45 points in Weapon Master.

      "That's enough points to buy weapon +5 [20] + Striking ST 5 [25] or increase Frostbite up to 25."

      I think both of these comments move the goalposts a bit. I'm saying making Weapon Master 45 points only doesn't change the have/have not situation, it just changes to cost to reach that have/have not situation. I don't think making One Weapon (20), a small group of weapons (30), etc. unavailable would change that. So comparing 45 points of laser-focused points on combat to refute my argument that not allowing you to spend 20 on one weapon and requiring 45 doesn't seem to me to be comparing apples to apples. We're talking more like 25 points at a maximum. Often 20 in DF as one-handed fighters take Shield along with their weapon of choice for 25 points. So it's 20-25 points of spread not 45. Making it 45 might encourage broader weapon selection, but I'd need to see how that actually affected player decision making to be sure. I know what having WM as-is in a campaign does, for sure, after a lot of sessions with it around.

      And I'm not saying I'd change this for DF. I said "I think if I ran another game, I probably wouldn't allow Weapon Master, Heroic Archer, and possibly Trained By A Master." "Another game", to me, means not this game, not DF.

  3. In the communities I frequent (Mook's and Doug's discords, a couple others) the most common complaint against WM as a have/have nots thing is the bonus damage. People generally feel removing the bonus damage or reducing it to a flat +1/+2 would be enough, and don't seem to mind the halved Rapid Strike and defense penalties.

    Removing all of WM, HA and TBAM would certainly be interesting and hearken back to the days when I started playing GURPS, but I feel a large portion of DF fans would find the default GURPS archery (shooting every 3, maybe 2 turns) obnoxious, similar to as how missile spells are commonly maligned.

    So yeah, personally, I'm fine with removing the WM damage bonus but keeping it at that. Alternatively, I'd like to try a game where there was no WM or HA, but where you could as a universal campaign switch shoot bows or throw missile spells every turn without aiming, or every two turns with aiming.

    1. I've found it really creates an incentive for people to hit those ST thresholds and makes noodly armed sluggers and archers not really as relevant

      So my fix is to allow Player choice, +2/die or Skill/5 flat

      So A ST 11 swash with skill 20 gets +4 to their damage

    2. "I feel a large portion of DF fans would find the default GURPS archery (shooting every 3, maybe 2 turns) obnoxious,"

      You're probably not wrong. I write for many people, but I make rules for our game for us. So it's really just a question of what work work for us.

      "So my fix is to allow Player choice, +2/die or Skill/5 flat"

      That's an interesting idea, but I would expect to see a lot of Skill-25 and Skill-30 swashbucklers just because they "need" the damage. Skill is already such a huge reward that we've considered capping it, so I don't want to go with some early-3e-ish Skill/number bonus approach that encourages more breakpoint hunting and skill increasing.

      An obvious idea is to just cap the damage bonus to a flat number, not per-die. +1 for DX+1, +2 for DX+2, and that's that, would still be useful for strong guys but reduce the importance.

      Still, I don't find the idea that the damage bonus is the main problem. Like Great Haste, the improved ability to saturate foes with attacks (or Feints + Attacks) at a reduced penalty is sufficiently dangerous that removing the damage bonus wouldn't make that less useful. Martial Artists have TBAM and can get along with that fine without Weapon Master, because they can also attack a lot and defend against many attacks without overly worrying about penalties.

    3. I like the 4e per die bonuses because they matter at high ST bonuses, without them whether or not a great wyrm knows karate or just brawling is simply noise

      The biggest thing I've found by reintroducing 3e damage bonuses as player choice is it lessons the mad dash for ST 19 for archers, and it makes people more willing to make thrust attacks instead of very heavy reliance on swings

      It also has the happy result of rewarding that very first point in an unarmed skill instead of having to wait until 4 to hit harder

      I really haven't had any issue with 'if you want to hit people, get weapon master' since I consider that desired behavior. Same with high skill. I just want to do some smoothing around the edges and make certain things more fabulous

    4. "I really haven't had any issue with 'if you want to hit people, get weapon master' since I consider that desired behavior. "

      The post really isn't saying Weapon Master is bad, per se, just that in a game with it, either you have it and you're a relevant fighter or you don't have it and you're significantly less relevant. So if you're okay with WM being a basic fighter advantage everyone has, then it's really fine to have it even if you'd change the implementation a bit. It's just an observation on the fact that this is what it does - it's not a tweak to make some types of fighters better. It's an on/off switch between 1st and 2nd rate fighters.

  4. Suggested nerf: Damage is +1 per die, +2 at DX+2, caps at +5 or +6 total. Stil; results in a rush to 17 ST or 15 ST plus Striking ST 2 but the race to 4d damage is less important than all around skill. That, and parry penalties halved but escalating (-2 for the first, -3 for the second, -4 for third and beyond). More complicated, but less overpowering. People will absolutely still take it, and be studs, but non-WM warriors (barbarians, holy warriors) are less “second tier” fighters. Also affects monster design. Could have potentially negative consequences, but I think it’s fair. I’d keep the point value the same, I think.

    1. The issue there is it keeps the effects largely the same within the sweet spot for PCs, and nerfs it for stronger foes who need multiple defenses to deal with PCs that outnumber them. So the "fix" actually solidifies the haves, and weakens the value of having it for potential threats.

      The declining value of multiple parries is interesting but complex. And that's assuming you only mean WMs - if all consecutive parries are escalating in penalty and then WM halves that, then it's really making it tough on the have-nots.

    2. Yes, only WMs for declining parries. Everyone else at a straight -4, WMs get one at -2 and one at -3 and the rest are at -4.

      To me the damage bonus is so overwhelming it’s almost criminal to run a strong knight and not have WM. It’s hard for Mild Bruce in some ways to differentiate himself and be a major factor in certain combats because he lacks WM. His value is mostly in taking punishment because of his HP. And even that is limited as depicted in the last delve he had in the Cold Fens.

    3. That would get tricky, because the math is x 1/2, x 3/4, and x1, and parries are -4, -2 for fencing weapons, -2 for two-handed weapons. Blocks are -5 each using GURPS Martial Arts, x 1/2 rounded up. So -3, -5, -8, -10 . . . does that stay or become -3, -6, -10?

      The damage bonus is the main thing, but it comes with improved ability to attack more. Bruce, with ST 22 or so, gives up +8 swing damage . . . that would be roughly 8 levels of Striking ST for 36 points, but Weapon Master would only cost 45 for all weapons, and come with extra benefits.


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