December 18, 2014

Melee Academy: Unarmed vs. Knife - Technical Disarms

Thursday is GURPS Day, and what better way to spend it than with another cross-blog installment of Melee Academy. Spawned by a thread oddly enough called Unarmed vs. Knife on the SJG Forums, hopefully a lot of people will contribute their own thoughts.

Others will probably hit the GURPS RAW pretty well, and hopefully still more will be inspired to give their favorite tactics from other game systems.

Me? I'm getting Technical.

Other Blogs, Other options

I wrote this one pretty late. I'm sure I missed a few things, made some suboptimal choices, etc. Good thing you can either comment or choose to post your own - I'll link to it! Here are the list of all the Melee Academy posts made by other bloggers . . .

December 17, 2014

Guest Post: Author/historian Shawn Fisher comments on rules-lawyering

Shawn Fisher, co-author of GURPS High-Tech and GURPS WW2: Hand of Steel (among other published works) posted a comment to the thread on rules-lawyering that somehow bounced from Blogger. He contacted me offline with the comment, which was fairly extensive - too extensive to be buried in the comments!

So here's more fuel on the fire. I anticipate restrained and level discussion.

The very point of rules is to help narrate an adventure game. No GURPS writer will ever be able to write rules that are perfect: That's an impossible standard. In addition, GURPS authors aren't trying to do that anyway. GURPS has an official play style that is very important. 

December 15, 2014

Musings on "33 Things I want from Combat as a player" Part 3 (23-33)

+Lowell Francis over at Age of Ravens threw down a mighty post: "33 Things I Want From Combat As a Player." I read them, and had thoughts. I will share them, because that's what I do on this blog.

This is the final part of a three-part response. You can find my comments on the first 11 of his wish list here, while the second third (aroo?) is here.

My comments are in black, while his are in color. The original post was huge as it was, so I'm hiding most of the responses behind a page break!

So here we go, for the home stretch . . .

23. If a combat is narratively unwinnable-- which I can accept for storyline purposes-- the GM should send those signals clearly.
I think this is good advice to establish as part of the game assumptions and expectations, too. I think +Peter V. Dell'Orto, for example, has either stated explicitly or his players have found by chance that he makes no attempt to balance his encounters. If you walk into the Frost Giant's barracks, and there are 100 of them and five of you, and your surname isn't Odinsson, you are courting disaster. "Every fight is one that can be won somehow" is a valid basis for a game, but not every game is like that.
Not to mention that having honest to goodness recon to do lets those sneaky scouty types shine. "Had we proceeded a mile farther, we'd have come upon a large body of the enemy; retreat would have been uphill through a swamp. We'd have been slaughtered" is a great victory for a scouty type.
24. I should feel like I'm fighting in a story, not playing a tactical game against the GM. I also shouldn't feel like the GM is changing the situation to get me.
Strong agreement with the second one, but my experience has been a bit interesting.
More often I've seen the GM adjust things to avoid a TPK than the other way. +Nathan Joy, on the other hand, simply kept ramping up the encounters against our DF party because he was having trouble providing us with a real challenge (GURPS can be hard that way). The very last one, documented in part 1 and part 2, was a very near thing, and we had to pull some pretty blatant rules exploits (mostly perfect situational awareness) to tip the scales.
That being said, Alien Menace started as more or less a series of tactical challenges, largely because I was silly and didn't provide a pool of points for non-combat activities for my players. That can be fun, too, depending on the character and player mix.

December 14, 2014

You poured rules lawyer all over my fun

Over on the SJG Forums, a thread started up that inspired next Thursday's Melee Academy topic, a cross-blog event where anyone that wants to take a shot at it writes about their favorite way to tackle a given topic. This particular thread is named "unarmed vs. knife," and the melee academy was broadened more or less to shortish-reach one-handed weapon (Reach C, 1 in GURPS, probably anything that can strike the same tile or adjacent 5' tiles in D&D).

That's neither here or there. What I want to do is point out something. Somewhere around Post 62 the thread sort of digressed (devolved?) into a protracted back-and-forth between mostly two posters. Sure, others got in there, but mostly it was 60 more long, involved posts that are really taking the letter of the rules, shaking them down for their lunch money, and stuffing them in a locker.

December 12, 2014

Musings on "33 Things I want from Combat as a player" Part 2 (12-22)

+Lowell Francis over at Age of Ravens threw down a mighty post: "33 Things I Want From Combat As a Player." I read them, and had thoughts. I will share them, because that's what I do on this blog.

This is the second part of a three-part response. You can find my comments on the first 11 of his wish list here.

My comments are in black, while his are in color. The original post was huge as it was, so I'm hiding most of the responses behind a page break!

12. Everyone should have someone to fight.
Assuming that combat is the purpose of the character and the conflict resolution method at play . . . no, I still don't necessarily agree. It does suck to want to be involved in the combat and not be able to either engage a foe, or have them all out of commission before you get there, though. I ran into that in my first Dungeon Fantasy game. By the time Cadmus got to the fight at Move 4, the other guys - either the archer that could engage at a distance or the magic user and/or gargoyle that could both fly - had already mopped everyone up. That was irksome.
13. There should be some sense of risk from the mechanics itself. By that I mean, I should be worried about damage or status effects. There should be a chance I could die if things go terribly badly-- well, maybe not die, but that I'd get taken out.
I think this is a good general rule, and by and large I dislike the "I've got 1 HP left, I'm good to rock and roll" feeling. But then, in games such as Swords and Wizardy, my HP are basically my "awesome battery." If my foes are hitting for 5-10 HP at a time, and I've got about 50 HP, then I can take about 5-7 hits before my "whack 'em in the face" strategy needs to change to "fight defensively," "run like hell," or "take a moment to slam down a potion." 
In GURPS, the purposeful presence of the death spiral (shock effects impact hit chances; stunning is a game-over effect, mostly) to incapacitation means that once you take a hit, you need to be very aware of how that impacts your fighting ability. Crippled or grappled limbs, dropped weapons (not unique to GURPS), low ammunition or a jammed gun in modern games, or even the presence of an enemy with high DR or high mobility can all make a fight go from "I'm OK" to "HOLY CRAP" in one hit.
But basically: yeah. Fights should be scary unless getting in a long series of fights is the whole point, and (as referred to elsewhere in a post I should link to and will do so later) the real campaign challenge is resource management, not having any particular fight be a big deal.

December 11, 2014

RAW Grappling: Win

A repetitive but useful introduction: 

In previous posts I talked about grappling from the perspective of someone totally unfamiliar with the concept and application. 

I proposed what is effectively a loose four-step model. Like all models, it's wrong, but hopefully useful ( "All models are wrong; some are useful." G. E. P. Box).

The steps (and the post titles) are:

  1. Grab him
  2. Grab him better
  3. Achieve a dominant position
  4. Win

Along the way, I digressed into defending yourself from grapples and while grappling, as well as a very detailed look at the arm lock technique in the Basic Set/Martial Arts. 

In this installment, we talk about the fourth and final step: achieving victory. Due to time constraints tonight, I'm only going to talk Rules-as-Written. I'll hit TG in a later post. Sorry.

That depends on what "I Win" means

A key decision here is to define victory, and if you're grappling, the goals are probably one or more of these four things:

  • Escape from a conflict
  • Immobilize your foe, either to keep him from leaving or to stall him
  • Incapacitate him and make him unable to continue fighting
  • Kill him. Dead. D-E-D. Dead.

December 10, 2014

I get to play DnD Fifth Edition!

I'm very excited. I asked to join a DnD game with some names you're going to recognize when I post session reports, and was invited to join.

Because I don't have access to the PHB, I"m sticking with the basics. Fifth level fighter, and he's developing a nice backstory.

I rolled ridiculously well for stats: 4d6 drop lowest, plus being human, gave me 13, 16, 14, 14, 16, 15.


Right now, I'm considering Heavy Armor Feat instead of the +2 to stats, but I'm unsure. I don't really have access to the feat list. If I just do stats, I can rock out with STR 18, DEX 15, CON 16, INT 13, WIS 14, CHA 14 or I can go with STR 17 and DEX 16. I like high DX for both the AC as well as often a bonus with ranged weapons. I've got an Archery specialty at the moment, but Great Weapon Fighting might be fun too. He's going to let me start with plate armor, and my loadout is a longsword, longbow, glaive, and two handaxes.

The back story on him is At a certain age (18, 21, whatever) the noble scions of the House of the Azure Tabard (or some such) are sent on Quest. They're teleported (voluntarily) way the hell away. They must adventure, thrive, enrich themselves to show they are worthy, lead men, follow men, slay monsters, fight for law, and . . . eventually . . . return home.

I've got some other notes on him, and I'll post a final character when I'm done.

For now, though - I'm open to suggestions! What am I missing?

Jay Meyer's Noble Treachery - On Sale!

A while ago, a coworker of mine decided to live his dream and publish a boardgame of his own. He worked it, designed it, sourced the art. He started his own game company: Great Northern Games, and made it happen.

It's now on sale, at CoolStuffInc among other places. +Jeffro Johnson interviewed him about it, and now the full printing is out.

It's a combined card and dice game - he calls it the Cardicean system, and it's worth taking a look at.

Here's the post I did a long time ago.

Congratulations to Jay for his persistence - he's done something we can admire. Go buy it, play it, and say nice things in public (say, on BoardGameGeek). Preferably in that freakin' order, thanks.