Thursday, April 18, 2024

Limits on Targeting Hit Locations?

This post is thanks to Faodladh, who made a comment on my last post on this subject.

In GURPS, it's very common to target specific hit locations. For skilled fighters run by skilled players, they often target a very small handful of optimal locations. You get eye shot guy, neck slicer guy, I only shoot the vitals guy. It's not always that realistic - the vitals or eyes or neck are always targetable? You can go for them over and over again. So let's say you want to limit the options.

Option 1: Minimum Effective Skill 10.

Like Deceptive Attack, attacks aimed at a specific location must have a minimum effective skill of 10. Therefore, to target the vitals (-3), you need a minimum effective skill of 13. Skull? 17. Eyes? 19.

Pros: Easy to implement. Limits tricky shots to the skilled.
Cons: You can't try a Hail Mary eye shot to win a fight unless your skill is higher.

Option 2: Only What's Open

I think Sean "Dr. Kromm" Punch suggested this or something somewhat like this, back in the day. Roll on the Hit Location Table. Whatever comes up is your best target, at a -0. Or you can choose anything else, but with an extra -2 on it.

Pros: Has a realistic feel to it.
Cons: Probably just imposes an extra roll and/or people buying 2 extra points of skill to eat the penalties.

Option 3: Saw it Coming

Use the rules as written, but give a +1 to defend against any targeted attack after the first one on the same target.

Pros: Can be used with the RAW or the rules above.
Cons: Still allows anyone who wants to hunt for specific areas to do so.

I have some more ideas, but it's late so they'll need to wait for another post.


  1. I definitely agree with Option 3 for any use of targeted attacks that repeat.

  2. I like both 2 and 3. The extra roll for 2 is fine if not optimal, and the other con isn't as much of an issue when point totals aren't in the stratosphere. 8 points in a weapon skill is a lot more meaningful when that's 5% of your whole character. And a bit more if you enforce Reputations for high skill levels or allow a Current Events (Warriors) (IQ-4 Default) or appropriate Area Knowledge or whatever roll to recognize and know something about someone with Skill-16, with maybe a +1 for every 2 skill above that. Something like half the setting will recognize Skill-24 guy on sight, which seems appropriate enough for someone Kromm would describe as being better than the "confirmed top master of all time". Probably be a good idea to pick up some positive reaction bonuses, especially if Skill-24 is going to be operating on the edge of legal.

    1. In a DF game, so many PCs walk around with 20s to start with it wouldn't quite work at that level. But you're absolutely right, word should get around. Why wouldn't it?

      Although, according to the players I've played with since I was fairly young, their PC literally killed anything they faced with no witnesses except other PCs who never breathed a word of their tendencies, so no one should ever know about their abilities. It's just totally unrealistic since they never display their skills except in fights to the death that they win. Oh, and to occasionally show off to NPCs to get something, but word shouldn't get around.
      Or maybe that's just the kind of players I've played with? Heh.

  3. "I slice the leg" guy has been pretty popular in my experience too. Typically armored a bit less, only -2 to hit relative to target's size modifier, and the lower crippling/dismembering thresholds combined with the likelihood of an effective mobility kill make it pretty juicy.

    There used to be an online web app made by Christian Blouin called the Serendipity Engine that would randomly generate an opening and a closing of various hit locations. There were "you get a bonus if you do this thing," like "+1 if you do an unarmed strike" or something. It was fast and a neat way to make it not just Spam Attack Option A all the time.

    1. Plus, "I slice the leg" is a recipe for "and I get cut in the face" according to a lot of swordfighting practitioners I know. Leg shots seem "easy" except you don't, in reality, get to take turns swinging . . . your opponent gets to try to take the shorter route between blade and face as you take the longer route from blade to leg.

    2. Shields change that a lot, as far as I know, since you can protect your face and attack the enemy's leg at the same time.

    3. I'd imagine a secondary parrying/blocking weapon of any kind would be useful for this. Probably the best approach is to penalize using the attacking weapon to parry, and scaling that penalty based on the target.

  4. My DF group gives +1 to hit if you roll on the random hit location chart rather than spend time picking a target, representing exploiting targets of opportunity. Rolling on the chart also bypasses the normal hit location penalty, so it brought a lot of "don't bother" hit locations back into play.

    In practice swing/cutting fighters were the most likely to take advantage of it, because a cut to an arm or leg was often as debilitating (or more so) than a torso hit. Impaling based fighters and archers would usually still pick their hit locations to make sure the better wounding modifier wasn't lost on a limb.

    A big change it brought was to fodder enemies. With low skill, fodder would usually be attacking random hit locations to get that +1. In response, fighters had to more evenly armour up to make sure low-damage attacks wouldn't accidentally cripple an extremity. It made fully armouring up feel more mechanically satisfying, rather than our group's meta of huge breastplate, huge helmet, and good-enough limb armour, relying on an active parry to defend all the difficult-to-hit locations beyond that.

    1. I like that idea.

      In my DF game, I use enough large-area injury attacks that armor tends to even out, and just max out on Skull.

  5. In the case of humanoids swinging long weapons at each other, I wonder if it's really true that the Torso is easier to hit than the Arms.

    1. In my experience, it's not even the case when punching. The head is a natural target for a reason - and it's generally easier to punch the face than land an effective body shot with all those arms in the way.


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