Thursday, December 8, 2022

Player questions on possible GURPS DF Felltower rule changes

We've had two concerns come up for the Fixed Feint option: - At least one person wants an option for a -8 if you win by a lot.

- And one person is concerned that fixing Feints at a -4 penalty unduly hurts high skill/low damage PCs more than others, and that -4 is possibly not enough to stay relevant.

Let's look at those in turn.

I have one option that could allow for that -8 without fussing over math each time and people double- and triple-checking numbers to eke out 1-2 points to ensure a -8 and cause people to say, "Do I sense that I should use Luck here, since I really need a -8?". I posted it the other day.

As for the second, I have two points.

The first is that from the GM's side of the screen, the high skill/low damage types are no more dependent on a successful Feint than the moderate skill/high damage types. They often need to aim for a more difficult hit location to ensure the damage they do is relevant or penetrates DR, but almost all of them, almost immediately, buy up enough skill and/or Slayer Training to make that a non-issue. Higher skill folks also always - always - inflict more Deceptive Attack on foes than moderate-skill/high-damage fighters. They have at least as many attacks as high-damage fighters, and usually have more. So much so that I spend approximately no time at all worrying about high-damage fighters when I design foes. I don't give them a thought. But once we get an eye-shot feint specialist, I have to consider that. Foes with eyes, and a lack of multiple defenses, and insufficient skill to resist a Feint, are basically fodder, albeit some of them are dragon-sized fodder. The need to give supposedly worthy or boss-level foes enough skill to have a fighting chance against a Feint every turn without going down high-single or low-double digits in penalties means they are harder to defend against in turn.

So I understand why someone would think this, but on the GM's side of the screen, and in my summaries, what I see is high-skill/low-damage folks mowing down foes and acting as the primary killing arm of the party while moderate-skill/high-damage guys do some grunt work keeping alive in a fight and taking out foes that lack eyes, vitals, and have high DR. Not one of those, but all of those. Otherwise, those foes fall to the high-skill guys.

I had once suggested that Feint do nothing except double the Deceptive Attack penalty you inflict on the victim next turn, but that was almost instantly and unanimously shot down as being bad because "What if you need full skill just to hit the guy so you have nothing to double?" And combining them - double with a minimum inflicted penalty of -4 - sounds like a solution but is the worst of both worlds, as unless you can afford a -6 to get a -6, you go with -0 and get -4 and use that 6 points to ensure a hit on a better location or to keep into crit-fishing range (16+.)

The second is, a fixed penalty of -4 means those high-skill guys actually have less need to keep pushing their skill up, and can do things to push their damage up or otherwise widen their capabilities. Once you can't stomp a foe's defenses to 0, you have no incentive to maximize your margin of victory. You just need any margin of victory. This applies in both directions - enemies no longer need skill 20+ to be "worthy" and skill 22-24+ to be a "boss" that can hang with a swashbuckler with a longsword.

- Merging Higher Purpose - "Does the Higher Purpose switch basically merge Undead and Demons?" Not exactly. If we change it to "Destroy Truly Evil" than it will change Higher Purose. It will apply to all demons, and all truly evil, willfull undead. But not all undead. Mindless skeletons and zombies and lesser mummies? No bonus. They're not evil. Eyes of Death and Mindwarpers? It will apply, they're "Truly evil."

Cost is an issue. We might have to make it cost more, and this suddenly broadens out what it applies to. If it's just as-written, I could live with 5 points. If it's as-written plus a per-die damage bonus, that applies to a great swath of foes. 5/level might be too cheap. But that's a second vote issue, as a clarification.

So there is some commentary on the commentary I'm seeing. Less than half of my players voted. I suspect in a week and change when we game a couple people will just announce their votes on some things as we play. That won't be so helpful compared to a pre-game vote. But . . . so it goes.


  1. This is neither here nor there, but the last time I ran GURPS, I changed Feint dramatically: the side that loses gets no active defense against the next attack from the winner. Attacker, defender, makes no difference: if the feinter wins, he has negated the target's defenses, but if he loses, he's exposed himself to an unrestricted counterattack. It was a lot of fun, making Feint both very powerful and really risky.

    I find that running GURPS, it's not just the arithmetic and the huge stack of options that slow the game down, it's largely the back-and-forth. You roll attack, I roll defense, you roll damage, I roll HT. Every time I hand you the ball or you hand it back, there's a kind of reset. With that one defense roll out of the flowchart, the turn after a Feint was always quick and usually decisive.

    1. "Usually decisive" sounds accurate. My concern doing that is high skill is already the most heavily weighted aspect of combat, in excess of any other aspect. And since the attacker could just as easier get killed by their own roll, I'd expect the following in my own games:

      - extreme maximization of skill, since almost no level is high enough if using Feint can take away your own defenses.
      - probably extreme reluctance by risk-averse players to using Feint, because it can take away your own defenses.
      - in cases where a player feels like his PC outskills his opponents sufficiently, they'd deploy Feint . . . probably until they had no more uses of Luck left.
      - AOA (Feint) would be the best option in many cases because you have no defenses, anyway, so your risk is nil but your potential benefit is maximal.

      Possibly not how it played out for you, but I can see that going this way with my group.

    2. There definitely was a skill arms race, although I didn't see any AOA (Feint)s. One dynamic that arose was a successful Feint provoking an AOA from the target since they didn't have defenses anyway, but just as often a Move to get away from step-and-attack range. It's worth noting that we didn't have Luck in the game (I don't like how it adds to rolling and bookkeeping) and that definitely makes a difference.

    3. The arms race is a big concern for me.

      So is the running away, actually. That's a very effective move in-game but isn't something I think reflects reality very well. If you've been faked out well out to lose your ability to defend, it shouldn't be a simple matter of just stepping far enough away to remove a possible attack to undo that. I can come up with fight situations where that might be rationalized, but they largely feel like a stretch to me. You could always resolve this by describing an attack as a "miss" and then resolving the Feint after, but that's not always as easy and effective as it sounds.

      Thanks for the additional details (and the original comment.) It's both thought-provoking and a handy thing for me to point out when I'm telling my players I'm actually a pretty nice GM. ;)


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